The first big step was being exonerated and released from prison, regaining his freedom. That happened on Dec. 18, 2018. Then on Oct. 30, 2019, the second big step occurred, when Clarence Shipley and four other exonerees learned they would receive compensation from the state of Maryland for their time wrongfully spent in prison.
For Shipley, 48, whose exoneration came following months of investigation by the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, the total payout will amount to $2.13 million. Exonerees will be paid $78,916 for each year they were imprisoned, with the first payment expected within 30 days. Shipley was behind bars for 27 years.
“I have mixed emotions, but I feel OK,” said Shipley in a phone interview. “I know this is all they can give me, but you can’t put a price on what I went through. I’m glad that they compensated me. That gives me and my family a cushion. It’s a lot of money, but it’s also not a lot of money.”
Michele Nethercott, director of the UB Innocence Project Clinic, has been advocating for improvements to the compensation process for years. Brianna Ford, the clinic’s deputy director, wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun in January arguing that compensation must come both swiftly and surely.
“I am happy for my client, Clarence Shipley, and the other men who have finally received compensation for the years they spent in prison for crimes they did not commit,” said Nethercott. “However, the struggle these men underwent to obtain compensation should not have been necessary.
“It is my hope that in the upcoming legislative session, Maryland’s compensation statute can be revised to provide a process that is fast, fair and predictable. Maryland needs to fix its compensation scheme and fulfill its moral obligation to individuals who were wrongly convicted and incarcerated. Future exonerees should not have to wait years to have their claims addressed, and this can only be ensured if the current compensation law is substantially amended.”
As for his readjustment to society after being behind bars for so long, Shipley said, “I still struggle.” He works as a maintenance technician for a property management firm in Baltimore. One of his co-workers is a fellow exoneree, Lamar Johnson, who also will receive state compensation.
Shipley said he plans to use the funds to start a real estate business: buying homes, fixing them up and renting them out. “I’m more of a saver than a spender. I know how to manage my money,” he said. “I don’t have plans to blow it.”