Image: Casey Anthony, Jose Baez
Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
Casey Anthony and her defense attorney Jose Baez enter a waiting SUV after leaving the Orange County Jail in Orlando on Sunday.
Image: Miranda Leitsinger
By Reporter
updated 7/19/2011 9:12:09 AM ET 2011-07-19T13:12:09

As Casey Anthony tries to build a new life after being acquitted in her daughter’s killing, she faces many of the same challenges as other former inmates, according to prisoner support groups.

But those challenges are amplified by her notoriety and the fact that so many people seemed to disagree with the verdict, they say.

"Being incarcerated is a traumatic event no matter who you are and no matter how long you stay in," said JoAnne Page, president and chief executive officer of The Fortune Society, a nonprofit social service and advocacy group in New York that works with former prisoners. "I think especially when somebody’s high-profile and when it’s a hard case for people to stomach, it’s much harder."

To ease the transition into life outside prison, advocates say, Anthony will likely need to move, find a supportive friend and avoid the media frenzy surrounding her case.

Anthony's acquittal on July 5 shocked and enraged many around the country who had been following the case since her 2-year-old daughter Caylee disappeared in 2008. Anger has spilled onto social media sites and elsewhere, with the big question now being, "Where is Anthony?" since she was released early Sunday from an Orlando, Fla., jail. Her legal team said on Friday it had received an emailed death threat with a manipulated photo showing the 25-year-old with a bullet hole in her forehead.

Although a judge sentenced Anthony on July 7 to four years for lying to investigators, she was released only 10 days later after getting credit for nearly three years of time served and good behavior.

Story: Was Casey Anthony prosecuted with inaccurate data?

While Anthony will face unique challenges because of the publicity surrounding her case, the struggles faced by those trying to reintegrate into society are not uncommon.

About 730,000 people are released from state and federal prisons across the country every year, while another seven million cycle through jails annually, Page said.

“No matter what the crime was, what you want is for them to enter society as people who can be constructive in the community," she said. "If that doesn’t happen, everybody gets hurt.”

People coming out of incarceration typically need help finding housing and a job, plus mental health or substance abuse treatment, among other support. Anthony may need that kind of help and more.

Anthony still faces a slew of potentially expensive legal problems, including being sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars by a Texas group that searched for Caylee in the weeks after she was reported missing.

Florida prosecutors also are seeking to recoup the cost of their investigation into Caylee's disappearance. In addition, she faces a defamation suit by a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez who claims she has been harassed and unable to find work after Anthony alleged Caylee was kidnapped by a baby sitter with Gonzalez's name.

“At the end of the day, she will really need to establish her own new normal,” said Georgia Lerner, executive director of the New York-based nonprofit Women’s Prison Association.

Her new life would have to be one that allows her to accept herself and the path that she has so far taken. But she will probably be “thrown off course” for a few years since people are so interested in her, and she could potentially “crash and burn,” Lerner said.

Story: Casey Anthony lies low on first day of freedom

“She could probably delay setting up a normal life for quite a while. She could decide to be on talk shows,” Lerner said. “She could probably have the life of a celebrity and support herself that way for some period of time, which would likely keep her in the spotlight, (and) probably end up creating more problems for her.”

Since Anthony will likely get work because of the trial — such as a reality show or a book deal — it makes her release an atypical one, said Elizabeth Farid of the National H.I.R.E. Network, which does legislative advocacy to eliminate housing, work and education obstacles for people who have criminal records.

“She will face barriers, that’s true, but my guess is that she’s not going to be applying for a job at … the local business where they would do a background check,” she said.

Many women want to reconnect with their families after getting out, but Anthony's relationship with her parents is strained. During the case, the defense accused her father, George, of molesting her as a child and helping to cover up Caylee's death. He denied both charges, which were never substantiated.

After her acquittal, Anthony refused a jailhouse visit from her mother, Cindy; and she reportedly hasn't been in touch with her parents since her release.

“She’s such a public figure but really quite isolated,” Lerner said.

Anthony may also need to move in order to start anew, said Page, who noted that large cities have “shorter memories” than smaller communities.

Story: Casey Anthony freed, heads for mystery destination

“It’s going to be extraordinarily hard for her to come back and I’m saying that because her face has been on television, everybody knows what she looks like," Page said. "There is no charge that is more horrific than the charge of murdering a child. And the fact that she was acquitted of that isn’t what is in forefront of many people’s memories, most people remember the charge.”

She added that Anthony will not only be at risk of being unable to find a job or a place to live, but "she may well be at serious physical risk."

Anthony does have security and “elaborate plans had to be made to keep the people away from her,” defense attorney Cheney Mason told NBC's Today show on Monday. He said she was still grieving the death of her daughter and the psychological toll of her jail time.

“It will take a while for her to adjust,” he said.

Page said her organization has had to create protective circles for clients in high-profile cases, while Farid said some former prisoners still were imprisoned by society’s judgment after their release — the “sentences after the sentence.”

“There still is this sense of not really being entirely free,” Lerner said. “There is a way that we feel kind of free just to keep re-convicting and re-judging people over and over again.”

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Video: Where did Casey Anthony’s mystery flight land?

  1. Closed captioning of: Where did Casey Anthony’s mystery flight land?

    >>> but let's begin with casey anthony , and the question, is she hiding out on the west coast this morning? nbc's kerry sanders is in carlsbad, california with the latest on this story. hey, kerry, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, ann. i'm in southern california . yes, in carlsbad. it's an upscale coastal community not far from san diego . when casey anthony was released from jail in orlando two days ago, she vanished. but now sources say she climbed on board an airplane, an aircraft kept at a hangar right here. that aircraft flying west, making multiple stops, where she may or may not have stepped off.

    >> this is the first place you would go search.

    >> reporter: todd makaluso was a high-powered california attorney, once a member of casey anthony 's legal team who reportedly gave her $70,000 before leaving the case last year.

    >> there is substantial evidence, and that proves, your honor, her innocence.

    >> reporter: on his website, he sizes his private plane , a plane that enables us to travel anywhere within the united states in seven hours. the day before casey was released from jail, his plane was on the ground in orlando, according to, a website which tracks commercial and private air crafts. pilots are not required to file flight plans for every trip, but the next time the plane showed up was in panama city , florida, nearly four hours after casey 's release from jail. after changing its planned destination twice, according to flightaware records, makalusa's plane headed to prescott, arizona. almost 15 hours later, the plane stopped in northern california . and then landed at the john wayne airport here in southern california . makalusa declined to comment to nbc news, and casey anthony 's legal team will not say if she was on board or if she is now in california .

    >> there might be somebody, if they want to spend enough money and effort and energy trying to find her. but it won't do them any good, because they won't be able to get to her, won't be able to talk to her, and when they blink, she'll be gone.

    >> reporter: it's unclear who is funding casey anthony 's life right now. she left jail with only $537.68. there is talk of a possible pay per view television interview, but she has also been hit with an irs tax lien and four different lawsuits. you may remember one of the key pieces of evidence the prosecution had during trial was taken from the anthonys' family home computer . they said they found 84 searches on the hard drive for chloroform. but during trial, according to the "new york times," the owner of the company that created the software that extracted that information from the hard drive said that the software was faulty, and is there were not 84 searches, there was only one. we attempted to contact the prosecutors to ask them for their reaction to this. they did not respond to us, nor did they respond to the "new york times." remember, it was that chloroform search that was a linchpin of the prosecution's case, because they claimed that casey had poisoned her little daughter caylee with chloroform. ann?

    >> all right, kerry sanders this morning. thanks.

    >>> star jones is a former prosecutor and veteran legal commentator, and savannah guthrie is today's legal correspondent. good morning to both of you.

    >> good morning.

    >> on this last point, is it possible that the prosecution failed in its duties during the trial that it wasn't 84, according to the software design who said it was 84, but when they checked the data and checked and scoffed glitches, it was only one time there was a chloroform search?

    >> law and ethics require the prosecution to turn over any information that it might -- that might be exculpatory to the defendant. if they found out prior to the close of their case that what was considered a linchpin, if you will, of their case, there was material that suggested they put on false evidence, in theory, they should turn it over.

    >> yeah, if it's exculpatory evidence , they should have turned it over. what i think is interesting here, there was testimony from a different search engine company that said it was only searched one time. so the jurors did hear this evidence that it wasn't 84 hits, it was only 1. one thing, though, i remember -- i think i commented on at the time. in the closing argument by the prosecution, they never mentioned those computer searches. and i remember thinking, that's odd. that was their key evidence of premeditation. why did they drop the issue in closing arguments?

    >> this may be the reason why.

    >> this is an argument. if you know or you think there is material that went in before the jury that should not have gone in, if you don't use it in the -- as part of your closing statement , then that's a good suggestion that you knew there were some problems.

    >> but doesn't that mean -- where does this go from here? in other words, if this, in fact, is found to be true, this "new york times" article, how does it effect then how this case -- how all of this debate goes from here?

    >> i think it's probably a nonissue. prosecutors if they failed to turn over exculpatory evidence may have an ethics issue on their hands. if she been convicted we would have a different story, we would have a hot issue on appeal. but what she was convicted of was lying to investigators. it has nothing to do with this chloroform search evidence.

    >> let's talk about the story of what is going on in terms of the search to find casey anthony . at some point, they're going to -- her whereabouts are going to be known. is there anything that she can do to stall or -- there is no guide book here.

    >> she kind of has a big decision to make. does she want to live her life in relative obscurity quietly, or does she want to make the most money at this opportune time, sort of pimp out her infamy. and that is a decision she has to make. if she decides to do it quietly, that is going to a legitimate news source, not selling an interview, not having any connection to selling videos or photographs, doing it one time and walking away. if she wants to make the most of her infamy, then she can just go for the gusto.

    >> yeah, you say it's a hard choice. in some sense, i don't know if she has a choice. i don't know if she'll be able to quietly go into that good night . i think sooner or later , paparazzi cameras will find her, spectators will find her. everything she does will be interesting. it's not the situation where celebrities can kind of foreclose the cameras by releasing a photo of a new baby daughter or something. people will be interested not just in what she looks like, but they want to see what she is doing. if she goes to the grocery store, if she goes to the coffee shop . there will be, for a certain period of time, money associated with anybody who can get that photograph. so i think she is going to be dogged by the cameras for a long time.

    >> meantime, there seems to be some money in play here. we heard yesterday from chain me mason that her lifestyle will be funded by volunteers. they have had a lot of offers to help. i mean --

    >> i watched that interview. it was very curious. people just want to insert themselves into a high-profile situation. and i find it a little interesting. no matter what you feel about casey anthony , if you think she was wrongly charged and she was not responsible for the death of her child, there is no question that she didn't use her mothering instincts in the way she reported this child's disappearance and then subsequent death. so i don't know where the volunteers are coming from, if you will. these -- i want to be on team casey . it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    >> i think people around casey need to evaluate the motives of anybody trying to insert themselves in this situation.

    >> savannah guthrie , star jones , thank you both. it's always good to have your perspective. and


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