Some exonerees don't sleep the first night or two after their release—the jolt to their bodies, and to their minds, is so profound. But after his first meal of chicken, french fries and doughnuts, and after watching some television, Ford reportedly slept well Tuesday night—slept in late, in fact. And on Wednesday, he drank his first cup of water from a real glass and used a metal spoon for the first time since 1983. There are going to be a lot of firsts for Glenn Ford now that he's free from that tiny cell.
In addition to the medical treatment he will receive, there now will be counseling for Ford, formal and otherwise. Already he's been earnestly guided by another recent Louisiana exoneree, a man named Calvin Duncan, who now is a Soros Justice Fellow after spending 28 years of a life sentence at Angola for a murder he did not commit. Duncan's story, like John Thompson's tale, is a story of courage and redemption. And if Ford listens to him, and all the other sincere people around him, this tragic story may have a happy ending after all.
Soon, Ford's lawyers will ask Louisiana to compensate him for his wrongful conviction and incarceration. By statute, Louisiana today entitles people like Ford to get $25,000 for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned, a figured capped at $250,000. Ford also will be entitled to up to $80,000 for what the law euphemistically calls "loss of life opportunities." If Louisiana honors its commitment to this man, as it should, he will receive in the neighborhood of $330,000 for 30 years of an unjust sentence—roughly $11,000 per year.
There is still a chance that Caddo Parish prosecutors, the ones who finally decided to bring a measure of justice into Glenn Ford's life, will contest the award of these funds. It is conceivable that they will say now, despite what they said in their court filings last week, that he is not totally exonerated, that he still played some role in the circumstances surrounding the death of Isadore Rozeman. What a terrible mistake this would be. Adding insult to injury, it would highlight all that the Louisiana justice system has done wrong in his case.
But there will be plenty of time to fight that fight if it comes. For now, whether he gets the compensation he is entitled to or not, life going forward will not be easy for Ford. Today, there are many more questions than answers about his future. Will he find a job? Will he stay clean and sober? Will he avoid the men, and the women, who will circle around him now hoping for a financial score? On the most basic of levels, will he be able to interact and socialize with his fellow citizens of Louisiana?
Imagine going to sleep in 1983 and waking up this week. Imagine going to sleep every night for 30 years in an 8-foot by 10-foot cell and then suddenly sleeping in your own furnished room. Imagine having to ask permission to do anything, to do everything, and then suddenly being free to make your own choices. Today, Glenn Ford is free. Free to succeed and free to fail. He told reporters that he is not bitter about the life that was taken from him by the state. I hope he means it. His best revenge, indeed, would be to live well. Please let it be so.