Building a life after incarceration can be challenging and overwhelming, which is where crucial organizations like After Innocence, an FFP grantee that provides holistic services to exonerees, come in. When Faye, one of After Innocence’s pro bono clients, came home in 2018 after 26 years behind bars, she was so grateful to connect with After Innocence. “I went in at 16 and didn’t come out until I was 43, and I found that I didn’t know how anything in life worked. That is the case for so many of us. Organizations like After Innocence make a big difference, helping us with whatever we need from legal services, guidance on health insurance, dental services, and financial counseling.”
Following her release, Faye was truly building her life from the ground up, having not received a settlement, but she remained optimistic and driven to create a future for herself. “About a year after my release, I had a vision for my future – I wanted to start a transportation business, similar to Uber and Lyft. I really love to drive, so it made perfect sense.” After Innocence helped her get started by working with her to fill out the LLC paperwork and register the business with the state. They also paired her with a pro bono financial planner, Otto, to help her get her financial house in order as she embarked on her entrepreneurial journey. (Read about Otto’s experience here.)
Faye and Otto began meeting twice a month via Zoom, first covering personal finance basics like budgeting, saving, credit, and debt. Faye shares, “I had a lot of credit cards but I didn’t know what I was doing. I really relied on them, so I ended up with a lot of debt. Otto helped me figure out a debt repayment plan to follow so I could pay off the cards. I never would have known how to do that if he hadn’t taught me.” Otto was also able to help Faye with finances related to her transportation business, which had a slow start due to the COVID-19 pandemic but began to take off in late 2021. “I started earning a lot through my business, but I had no idea how to file taxes, how much I needed to pay in taxes, any of it,” Faye says. “Otto walked me through how to file taxes and taught me how to set money apart for taxes.” Otto and Faye also found a phone app that Faye could use to track her income and business expenses like gas and mileage. “Having that system and accountability is so helpful and necessary as a new business owner.”
Today, Faye and her business are thriving. She has transportation contracts with several local organizations, including a Kansas City Chief’s player, the player’s foundation and a city school district. Her business has started to expand, and Faye has hired an additional driver with plans to hire a third. With the 2026 World Cup taking place in Kansas City, Faye also hopes to purchase a van and a limousine so they can do tours. Faye is so grateful for the help that After Innocence and Otto provided. “After Innocence impacted my life in a major way and they are what every exoneree needs after they get out. They really help you with whatever you need to get your life together. And I’m so grateful for Otto – he is an amazing person. He made it so easy and pleasant, and really put me at ease. I was worried and a little nervous going in, but as we started working together, he made sure I knew what to do and was so wonderful. Now I know about credit cards and how to use them responsibly and the importance of having savings. I’m not in debt anymore and I have money set aside for my business taxes. I would have never done this otherwise.”
Her advice to others who may be nervous about speaking with a volunteer financial planner? “These are people that really care, want you to succeed, and are giving their time and energy without expecting anything in return. Give it a chance, listen to what they have to say, and apply it, because they really are experts and they know about finances. If you apply their advice, you will succeed. They’re really just giving you a seed – if you water it, you will see it grow.”
“If you apply their advice, you will succeed. They’re really just giving you a seed – if you water it, you will see it grow.”
Planner helped client to:
- Learn about personal finance basics.
- Pay off her credit cards and become debt-free.
- Start her own business and be tax compliant.