Navigating the Job Market
After a Wrongful Conviction


The exact number of wrongful convictions remains unknown; however, general estimates indicate that 5,000 to 30,000 people are wrongfully convicted of a felony each year. This results in many negative consequences for society and the individuals who are wrongfully convicted. Individuals who have been wrongfully convicted have many needs when reentering the community, with employment being critical for successful community reentry. Although employment is extremely important to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted, they often experience barriers when trying to access work. Understanding the lived experiences of those managing a wrongful conviction is critical for society to aid in repairing the harm it caused by wrongfully convicting and incarcerating an individual.

This project is designed to examine how wrongfully convicted individuals navigate the job market upon release. The project aims to better understand how being wrongfully convicted impacts employment opportunities. Additionally, the project also aims to better understand what role Innocence Network Organizations play in the employment process with wrongfully convicted individuals.

The project consists of two phases. The first phase has been completed. In the first phase, I interviewed individuals who work with Innocence Network Organizations. Organizational employees were asked various questions related to achieving freedom, compensation, and after-release experiences with employment. The goal for this phase was to learn more about the organization and the role it plays in the employment process with their clients. Phase one participants also provided critical feedback to the interview guide for phase two.

I am currently recruiting participants for phase two of the project. In the second phase, I am interviewing individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and served time incarcerated. The goal for this phase is to learn more about the specific experiences of wrongfully convicted individuals in the employment process. Eligible participants must be 18 years of age or older, have been convicted of and served time for a crime, and have either been exonerated of that same crime or currently are or have been the client of an innocence organization who gained freedom through another avenue such as time served, a plea agreement, etc., in addition to being at least 1-year post-release as of January 1st, 2020. Participants must also have a valid email address to receive study documents.

Eligible and interested participants will be asked to participate in a one-time, one-on-one interview lasting approximately 1 hour in length. Interviews may take place through a video conference or over the telephone. Participant commitment would require 1-2 hours to complete the interview in addition to having access to the internet or a telephone in order for the interview to be conducted.

If you would like to participate, view the Informed Consent Form for Innocence Network Organizational employees or wrongfully convicted individuals’ further information, including the purpose of the study, what will happen during the study, and the risks and benefits of participating.

If you or someone you know is eligible and interested in participating please contact me at the information provided below.

If you have questions about me or the project please visit my webpage or contact me via email ( or telephone (931-215-3997).


Thank you for volunteering to participate!

Michelle L. Estes, M.A.
Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Sociology
Oklahoma State University


*An Institutional Review Board responsible for human subjects research at Oklahoma State University has reviewed this research project and found it to be acceptable according to applicable state and federal regulations and University policies designed to protect the rights and welfare of participants in research. This project has also received approval from the Innocence Network Research Review Committee.