Former death row inmate Glenn Ford was released from the notorious Angola prison in Louisiana last month with $20.04 to his name. He had not had fresh fruit for nearly 30 years, and lacked all the basic necessities one would normally accumulate in his 64 years. But thanks to an Amazon.com wish list registry set up with the help of his friend, John Thompson, Ford has since been given a fruit basket – and tasted his first mango.
It’s a small, but meaningful step after being exonerated for a murder he did not commit.
Ford was on death row for almost three decades after an all-white jury found him guilty in a murder case that, while tragic, lacked any evidence tying him to the crime. He missed watching his two sons grow up. Those years could have been spent working, traveling, and building a happy life.
Now Ford must start from scratch. The wish list was conceived by Thompson as the easiest way to ask for help and start the rebuilding.
Clothing was a big segment of the original list, because Ford did not have much outside of his prison uniforms. Movie tickets, frozen dinners, and more of life’s simple joys have been since purchased by anonymous supporters through the ecommerce site, which does not track donors.
According to Danielle Mickenberg, investigator at the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana, who assisted with the project, approximately 300 items have been posted, and most have already been gifted. She told The Atlantic that she continually looks for items to add – at a range of price points – to meet the strong desire to help Ford start anew.
“It is a really nice moment in time, to see how people are reacting,” Mickenberg told The Atlantic, adding, ““He’s working on rebuilding… and is trying to stay a little private.”
Currently, Ford awaits the process of seeking material damages from the state of Louisiana for wrongful incarceration. It is possible that area prosecutors will contest awarding him damages, but even if Ford receives compensation, the state of Louisiana has a cap for such damages of $330,000. That is roughly $11,000 per year.
Remaining items on the wish list range from a rolling duffel bag, to a sewing machine, items perhaps representing the many facets of experience Ford missed out on while behind bars.
Despite holding some “resentment” for his losses, he is optimistic about enjoying his freedom.
“It feels good,” Ford said when he was released on March 11. “It feels real good.”