It’s been a long way home for two New York City men who were wrongfully imprisoned for murders they didn’t commit.
However, as CBS News reports, far from being bitter, the men have now become business partners in a new Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant while working full time to help the wrongfully convicted.
According to the report, Derrick Hamilton and Shabaka Shakur did not know each other growing up in Brooklyn but became close behind bars, where the duo worked together for more than 20 years as jailhouse lawyers exonerating those who were wrongfully convicted, including themselves.
Hamilton spent a total of 30 years in prison, with his longest stint being 21 years, while Shakur was locked up for 27 1/2 years straight.
“[Shakur] had came in for a double homicide, said he was innocent,” Hamilton told the network. When asked if he had believed him, Hamilton responded with a resounding, “Absolutely.”
“’Cause I was convicted of a crime I didn’t commit,” he quipped.
It turns out that both men believed they had been framed by controversial New York City Police Detective Louis Scarcella. Several allegations against the now-retired cop led judges to overturn 11 of his convictions and cost the city more than $30 million.
Shakur and Hamilton invested some of their settlement money in a restaurant called Brownstone, hoping to build their lives back up while reconnecting with their community.
“We knew that once we were released that people are always going to have that stigma against you that you were in prison,” Shakur said. “So we wanted to prove that we were assets and not liabilities, that we could go back into the community and be productive citizens.”
The men also make it a point to hire employees who may have issues securing jobs because of criminal records.
“If your ego doesn’t stop you from picking up a broom and a mop and you want to work, we got you,” Shakur added. “The kids in this neighborhood, they come in here, we give them a few dollars to help us clean the windows or wash dishes to keep them off the streets.”
And both men still work full time on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, as they once did while in prison. The network notes that both spent nearly every day behind bars studying law and have worked on dozens of cases, including their own. Hamilton said that he helped free five other men, including Shakur.
“They say 2 percent at the very minimum of 2 million people that’s in prison is innocent,” Hamilton said. “So when you look at that percentage, to me that’s too high a number to just turn your back and walk away from.”
And both men remain thankful for their second chance to give back in multiple ways.
“Every day is a blessing and now I’m here, and not only am I here, but I’m able to provide a service and a place for other people to come in here and enjoy their lives,” Shakur said.
Read more at CBS News.