Sean Ellis’ nightmare ended officially in 2015. After spending nearly twenty-two years in prison for a crime he did not commit, he was released. But Sean did not feel like a free man.

Wrongfully convicted at age 19, Sean had no basic financial skills such as saving and budgeting – necessary for anyone starting out on their own.  

He spent the first couple of years after his release staying with different friends and was ultimately referred to Metro Housing. It was there that he learned of the Green Space Financial Coaching program, a financial literacy program for low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

“I grew up in a single parent household,” says Sean. “I grew up really not knowing anything about finances. In prison, you basically spend the little money you earn on necessities you need.”

Sean’s biggest obstacle when he began working with Shawn Judge, Financial Stability Program Manager, was anxiety and lack of confidence.  After he began meeting with Shawn, he began to realize that he was not really far behind the majority of other adults when it came to financial literacy.

“Sean didn’t come from a background where he was able to give himself credit,” says Shawn. “Once he began to not see himself as being ‘less than,’ he realized he did not have to do this alone anymore. He could be imperfect and still be perfect in his imperfection.”

Sean soaked up his new-found knowledge.  “When I first met Sean, he had such a huge willingness and commitment to learning,” says Shawn. “He wanted to meet as often as I could schedule time with him. He was like a sponge. He just wanted to learn.”

When Sean first connected with Green Space, it opened his eyes to his personal relationship to money and credit. As a result, “I have been able to save and pull myself out of total debt. I definitely would not be in the place I am now if not for Green Space.”

Sean is a staff member at the New England Innocence Project (NEIP), which fights to correct and prevent wrongful convictions and ensure justice within the criminal legal system for innocent people who are imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. He is also a co-founder of the Exoneree Network, a peer-led initiative funded by NEIP that supports the practical, emotional, and spiritual reentry needs of exonerees as they work to rebuild their lives in freedom.

Sean sees a perfect alignment between Green Space and the Exoneree Network.

* The story of Sean Ellis’s wrongful conviction is told in Trial 4, an eight-part Netflix original docuseries. To view the trailer for Trial 4 and to learn more about the work of the Exoneree Network, Click HERE.

“When an exoneree comes home, it is often after spending decades in prison for crimes they did not commit. Often, they have no place to go. I believe Metro Housing is essential in trying to find safe and secure housing for exonerees coming out of prison. But beyond that, an even greater need is the financial literacy component of Green Space. Improving an exoneree’s financial literacy empowers them, and also cuts back on the recidivism rate. If that person knows how to manage their own money effectively, it reduces the need for them to go out and do something inappropriate to get money.”


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