After wrongful conviction, Puracal working to change the system

SEATTLE -- Convicted of drug charges in Nicaragua, Washington native Jason Puracal was held in a notoriously dangerous prison for two years before an appeals court acquitted him.

Puracal is now back in Washington, and he's ready to talk about what it feels like to come home as an innocent man.

Sometimes the nightmares come -- police chasing him in a foreign country.

"Full kevlar, black masks," Puracal said.

It's just a dream, but it's deep rooted in reality. He spent two years in deplorable conditions inside a Nicaraguan prison after being wrongly convicted of drug and money laundering charges.

"To be separated from your family for any length of time, it's very stressful," he said. "And it causes a lot of pain. It's 100 times worse when you're innocent."

Puracal has been back home in the Pacific Northwest for seven months. He said he loves the rain and fresh air and is laser focused on moving forward.

He immediately enrolled in classes at Bainbridge Graduate Institute and is working towards a graduate degree in sustainable business.

Puracal has yet to find a job, but is busy doing volunteer work with groups that helped secure his freedom, including the Innocence Project Northwest.

"I think it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn't use the 15 minutes of fame I've had to make some influence and make some change," he said.

He's also making up for lost time with his family, including 6-year-old Jabu and his wife, Scarleth. Jabu loves school and is popular with other student, but Puracal said he can tell Jabu still has some issues with anger.

He would like to see resources for people who've been wrongly convicted, such as counseling to help with post traumatic stress. He also wants human rights organizations allowed in the prisons of Nicaragua.

Since his release, Puracal has met with Sarah Shourd, who is one of the three American hikers accused of spying in Iran. He also has a sense of what Amanda Knox experienced.

"We've all gone through something no one else has gone through, having our freedom taken away from us without any cause," he said.

Puracal said he wouldn't feel safe returning to Nicaragua and he still doesn't know who targeted him and why.
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