First Calif. inmate released under Prop. 36 says voters have given him strength

Kenneth Corley freed after 16 years in prison

SAN DIEGO - A San Diegan who became the first inmate released under the amended "three strikes" law is telling 10News how he is adjusting to life as a free man.

Last November, 62-year-old Kenneth Corley was freed under state Proposition 36 -- the amendment to the three strikes law allows inmates to petition for re-sentencing if their third strike was not serious or violent.

In 1996, he was sentenced to 25 years to life for drug possession because it was his third strike. By 2012, he had served 16 years of his sentence.

Mike Semanchik with the California Innocence Project based at California Western School of Law in San Diego worked on the case to free Corley.

"It didn't make sense for him to be serving any more time," said Semanchik.

The Innocence Project's efforts helped free Corley, and Semanchik added, "I was really confident that Kenny was going to make it."

Corley has spent the last four and a half months trying to get used to life outside of Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.

What has surprised him most since getting out?

"What has really surprised me is the change in San Diego County," Corley said.

Semanchik said Corley had a model record in prison and had not been tempted by drugs.

"The public may not know drugs are widely available in prison," Semanchik said.

Semanchik said Corley's transition could not be better, as he just graduated from Second Chance, which is a job readiness program.

Corley keeps up regular contact with the Innocence Project and his probation officer. He also has the support of family.

Semanchik also said something that seems as simple as learning to navigate the advances in technology, like using a cellphone, is one sign of how former inmates are doing.

"Oftentimes we see people get out and they have problems with technology," Semanchik said.

Corley said, "I'm working it out; I'm getting good with it."

Corley said the Innocence Project and voters who passed Prop. 36 are the inspiration that will help him stay on the right path.

"I can't let them down. I won't let them down," Corley.

Corley said he has to deal with some medical issues first, but is hoping eventually to get a job in food service.

The Innocence Project says more than 300 cases in San Diego County may qualify for re-sentencing.


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