Calvin Duncan is a native of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. In 1985, Duncan was falsely accused of murder. After serving 28 1/2 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, the Innocence Project New Orleans secured his release from prison on January 7, 2011. When Calvin returned home from prison he was homeless. After spending several days at the home of his attorneys he moved into a transitional house, Resurrection After Exoneration, before a law student let him live rent-free in her guesthouse for an entire year.
While in prison, Calvin learned the law and worked as an inmate legal substitute for twenty-three years, nineteen of those years on Louisiana’s Death Row. Shortly after he was released from prison Calvin was hired as a Paralegal with the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project so he could continue his work with his clients. Calvin is now enrolled in the Tulane School of Continuing Studies pursuing a Bachelors degree in Paralegal Studies. In 2013 Calvin was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship to assist prisoners in overcoming the many procedural bars people face post-conviction.
Since returning home Calvin has also provided counseling, housing, and financial assistance to many of his friends released from prison. Calvin also works with currently incarcerated people who are preparing for sentencing approaching release to work on re-entry planning. He is currently partnered with the Orleans Parish Public Defenders office to do re-entry planning for a juvenile facing up to 10 years in adult prison.
When asked why he continues to do this work, Calvin always replies that he is just “paying forward the blessings he has received from others.”