Ex-prisoner who argued programs are key to staying free dies 63 days after release


CHICAGO — A former prisoner who argued that programs are vital to staying free has died after only being able to enjoy 63 days of freedom.

Robert Merriweather, imprisoned on drug charges, was profiled last month on WGN Investigates. Merriweather said his health deteriorated while behind bars. When he was finally freed, prison staff gave him a train ticket to Chicago, where, despite his concerns, he says he was on his own without access to treatment or programs.

“This is it. Figure it out,” Merriweather said the prison staff told him. “That’s what they did. Left me on my own in Chicago.”

“If you got the programs, it would give a man some hope where he can come out and do the opposite of what he was doing to get himself in there,” he added.

Merriweather spoke with WGN Investigates because he said his situation was an example of how inmates receive little help in battling their addictions while behind bars or after they’re released. 

The Kane County Sheriff, who had previously helped Merriweather, found a space for him in a shelter and connected him to a counselor he had previously worked with to end his heroin addiction. 

Merriweather was in good spirits and excited for a new chapter. 

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Sadly, the sheriff told WGN Investigates that Robert Merriweather died on Friday. An autopsy determined he had a pulmonary embolism. 

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