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After 43 years behind bars, freedom in Kansas City hasn't been easy for Kevin Strickland

 Kevin Strickland talks with the media shortly after being released from Western Missouri Correctional Center on Nov. 23, 2021.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Kevin Strickland, shown above after leaving prison on Nov. 23, 2021, continues to adjust to life on the outside.

For now, he’s trying to adjust to things that didn’t exist when he was locked away more than four decades ago. Cellphones, for instance.

Kevin Strickland spent 43 years in prison in Missouri for a triple murder he didn’t commit. Ricky Kidd spent 23 years in prison in Missouri for a double murder he didn’t commit. Strickland was exonerated and released two months ago. Kidd was exonerated and released in 2019.

Life on the outside hasn’t been easy. For one thing, how do you deal with mundane tasks like getting a title to a car when you don’t have proper ID? How do you function when you’re still waiting on a Social Security card? What to do when you’re not even sure where to find your birth certificate?

“I’m not rested just yet,” Strickland says. “I’m not comfortable. It’s been difficult.”

But he and Kidd are trying not to dwell too much on the past. The two, who became friends in prison, are about to embark on a project called “Justice Where Are You?” It’s a speaking tour that aims to educate people about people wrongfully incarcerated in American prisons.

“There are people who we personally know and we personally believe are innocent and deserving of their freedom,” Kidd says.

Strickland is convinced there’s an audience for what the two have to say. He notes that 30,000 people donated to his GoFundMe page after he was released. (Missouri doesn’t compensate wrongfully convicted people unless they’ve been exonerated via DNA evidence.)

For now, he’s trying to adjust to things that didn’t exist when he was locked away more than four decades ago. Cellphones, for instance.

“I was out about seven days before I got it,” he says. “And I think last week I officially learned how to answer a call if you were to call me.”

And he’s indulging in pleasures that most of the rest of us take for granted: hot showers; sleeping in a bed that’s not attached to a wall; going in and out without having to request permission.

“So yeah, those things like that are big deals,” he says.

Not long after his release he realized a long-held dream: to walk barefoot in Kauffman Stadium.

“I worked at that stadium when I was about 15, 16 years old, cleaning up after the games,” he says. “And I used to be able to get in and clean up the stands but I could never get to the field … and I wanted to see just how carpet-y, how nice that grass was.”

Former Kansas City Royals second baseman Frank White, now the Jackson County Executive, presented Strickland with a bat after he got out. Strickland says White promised to autograph it, and he's still waiting.

A spokeswoman for White later said the autographed bat will soon be on its way.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.
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