Imagine going about your life in a normal way and then, without warning, and to your utter disbelief and shock, it is suddenly turned upside down and inside out with consequences that are so horrific you sometimes wonder if you would live to tell about it. That is precisely what happened to Dwayne Allen Dail who was unjustly incarcerated for 18 ½ years for crimes he did not commit.
In 1987, a 12-year-old girl in Goldsboro, North Carolina was raped. The following day a detective was knocking on Mr. Dail's door questioning him about his whereabouts on the day of the rape. Mr. Dail told the detective that he was probably asleep. After Mr. Dail returned from work to have dinner with his mother on May 13, 1988, he learned that he was charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, indecent liberties, and lewd and lascivious actions. "I was absolutely floored," says Mr. Dail, who was 19-years-old at the time. He spent 4 ½ days in jail and was released on $5,000.00 bond.
How was Mr. Dail targeted for blame in this incident? Three weeks after the rape occurred, the mother of the victim observed Dwayne drive by her home in a van and thought she saw him look up at the apartment complex and stare at the window for too long a period of time. As a result, she called the police and provided his name. Weeks later, the victim saw Mr. Dail walking and stated he was the perpetrator. In the child's mind, he became the rapist. Signs of false exposure, surrounding this accusation that pointed to Mr. Dail, included the early morning hour, the young victim, little lighting, and a short interval of exposure.
His trial began March 27, 1989. An offer was made for him to plead no contest to the misdemeanor and be placed on 3 years probation. Mr. Dail declined the offer because he knew he did nothing wrong. The charge of lewd and lascivious act was dropped before the charges went to the jury. He was subsequently convicted of first-degree burglary, first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, and indecent liberties on March 29, 1989. On March 30, 1989, he received a sentence of two life terms plus 18 years. Mr. Dail was sent to Central Prison on March 31, 1987. "I tried not to cry," says Mr. Dail when he was taken to the first youth prison, Polk Youth Institute, and went through the orientation process. He had not been there 15 months when he was threatened and raped. Not understanding what it was, he signed himself into protective custody where he remained for several months. "It was a lot less threatening but no less terrorizing," says Mr. Dail.
While in prison, Mr. Dail wrote to numerous magazines and newspapers about his situation claiming his innocence. When he had a custody review, he was asked if he wanted to remain in protective custody, which he did, and he had to sign for this request. From Polk, he was sent to Blanch prison and placed in a single cell where he remained for eight months. "I've never been so confined in my life," says Mr. Dail. He continued his letter writing campaign. "I began reading everything I could while I was in there," says Mr. Dail. While at Blanch, he turned 21 years old.
From Blanche he was sent to Eastern Correctional Institute. In comparison to Pope and Blanch, Mr. Dail says, "It was a new building, very soothing, freshly painted, floors waxed, inmates older." He took classes there and became comfortable. "I was so deceived by the appearance of the place. I let my guard down. As a result of that, I was raped and beaten and that was just the beginning of a long road." The word was out among the prison population that Mr. Dail was a child molester and, as a consequence, he was victimized in the correctional system. "I was convicted for raping a 12-year-old Black girl, and everyone in prison knew that," says Mr. Dall.