Lamonte McIntyre opened a barbershop in Kansas City, Kansas. He’s named his shop “Off the Top Salon,” and I hope people in the city and nearby townships have flocked there for a trim.

McIntyre deserved their support.

Yet I wonder where people, the prosecutors, the judges and the jurors were when a renegade cop sent McIntyre to prison for 23 years in a double murder he didn’t commit. He was released from a Kansas prison in 2018, but it takes a man awhile to get his bearings after so much days behind bars.

Hundreds of Lamonte McIntyres have been freed in the past two decades, and I suspect thousands more are in prison because the system did them wrong too. I can’t shake that thought from my mind, as people who read my Facebook posts should know.

Since about 2013, I have been reading articles of injustice and then listening to podcasts that featured wrongful convictions like McIntyre’s. The majority of those convictions applied to Black men.

I’m not living in the Land of Oz when I say this. Statistics are on my side.

Not long ago, Barbara O’Brien, a law professor at Michigan State, released a study that said Black men convicted of murder were about 50 percent likelier to be innocent than other convicted murderers. Black men also spent longer in prison before exoneration; they are seven-times more likely than whites to be found guilty of a murder they did not do, so says The Innocence Project.

Those findings shine a LED light on a larger concern: How did the system wrong those men in the first place? And then there were the victims, the blood-and-guts Black men who illustrated how our blind pursuit of justice can go haywire:

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart, Raymond Santana, Anthony Ray Hinton, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, Ricky Jackson, Kwame Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman, Clifford Williams Jr., Hubert Nathan Myers, Archie Williams, Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, Ransom Watkins, Lydell Grant, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Ernest Thomas, Jarrett Adams, Ramon Ward, James Harris, Kevin Harrington, Harold Hall, David Robinson, John Nolley, Dennis Allen, Ronnie Long, Jabbar Collins, Derrick Hamilton, Sundhe Moses, Roger Logan, John Bunn, Danny Burton, Christopher Scott, Claude Simmons, Valentino Dixon, Jimmy Dennis, Messiah Johnson, Christopher Miller, Darnell Phillips, Matthew Charles, Robert Jones, Kerry Porter, Calvin Johnson, Shabaka Shakur, Isaiah Andrews

Why stop at Andrews, an Ohio exoneree?

Good question. I could have added scores of names had I continued. I decided, however, that this list of exonerees should focus only on those Black men who spent long stretches in prison counting down the days until somebody heard their pleas for help.

Help in the criminal justice system comes slowly, because most of us don’t care enough that the wrong man was imprisoned. We figured if the cops didn’t get the right man this time, well … so what? Another Black man was off the streets, and that’s all right with them.

I must remind you that, each day, Lamont McIntyres fill our courtrooms and our prisons, which are hell on earth for Black men. If we are to find justice there, it must come from insisting that one of our basic rights not go abridged: the right to be free.