A new start after 33 years of wrongful imprisonment
Most people would regard my life as a nightmare. 33 years in prison — for a crime I did not commit. Locked up at 19, released at 53. But I refuse to believe that my life is nothing but a disaster — that the three decades behind bars were just lost time. Not only have I survived the acid test of the U.S. prison system, but I have fought my way out of physical and mental cages. These experiences make it possible for me to help others who are also in hopeless situations. If I succeed in this, then the 33 years in prison will no longer be a nightmare, but a treasure that I can share with others.
In Germany, I now work as a coach, speaker and author. Because I was released on parole, without a pardon, I am not allowed to travel to the United States to visit my many American friends, or to pursue work opportunities. But perhaps that will change one day.
“As shocking as Jens‘s case is, it doesn’t shock me anymore, because it happens all the time here. There are thousands of innocent people in prison. Now Jens got the most important thing: he’s free, and he’s out of a terrible prison system, and he‘s hopefully got some good years ahead of him.”
best-selling author and former criminal defense attorney, board member of the Innocence Project
Lawyers, Investigators and Scientists on the Soering Case
My attorney Steven D. Rosenfield with the DNA test results that ultimately led to my release.
On June 21, 1990, I was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment in Bedford County, Virginia. But in the following decades, more and more doubts grew about the verdict and the way the trial was conducted. Ultimately, I was released on parole on November 25, 2019 — without an official recognition of my innocence. During the last three years before my release, many experts dealt with my case: lawyers, investigators and scientists. On this page of my website, I want to let them speak in their own words so readers can form their own opinion about my case.
“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”
Am I “refusing” new DNA tests?
On June 28, 2022, two podcast producers claimed they had convinced the prosecutor of Bedford County, Wesley Nance, to sign a petition for new DNA testing. The only thing missing now was my signature, and then the ball could get rolling — but I “refused” to sign.
The final episode of the podcast suggests the reason must be that I’m afraid my DNA could be found. But that is not true! In fact, I wrote the prosecutor to ask for DNA tests, and he wrote me several long emails to explain why new tests aren’t possible. On this page of my website, you can read the prosecutor’s emails and watch my YouTube video.
“The ability to say the word ‘no’ is the first step toward freedom.”
Finding a way forward — together
After the publication of my seventh book, Return to Life, I received many requests from people in Germany who wanted to talk to me. Some were looking for life coaching, others for tips and tactics for a specific crisis, still others for a fireside chat in a small circle. At first I thought this interest would soon fade, but more and more emails arrived, and they keep coming. Of course I’m pleased and honored that so many people put their trust in me. I’m even more pleased that I can use my life experiences to help others find a way forward. I don’t see myself as a coach in the usual sense, but as a companion who has often stumbled himself — and yet never gave up.
Between past, present and future
My first book, The Way of the Prisoner, was published in 2003. In the following years and decades, another five books and four translations followed. My subjects were meditation and medieval Christian mystics; justice and penal reform; liberation theology and the social gospel; and, of course, my case and my life. Working as an author in prison was not without risk: After the release of my second book, I was thrown into the punishment block for six weeks because I had dared to criticize the prison system publicly. That didn’t deter me, and my third book even won a small literary prize. After my release, I published a seventh book in Germany, Return to Life, about my first year in freedom. Unfortunately, no American publisher was interested in releasing a translation, but all of my earlier books are still available in the U.S.
English-language media reports since my release
The Too-Steep Climb to Righting Wrongful Convictions
March 27, 2020 — Crime Story — by Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson
For thirty-three long years—longer than I’ve been alive—Jens Soering pleaded his innocence, losing appeal after appeal, being denied parole fourteen times. I only became aware of his plight in 2018, when I devoted a season of my podcast, The Truth About True Crime, to his story. There were so many strange parallels between our cases, I started to see Jens as the version of myself who never got out.
A New Chapter in a Double-Murder Case
December 21, 2019 — The New Yorker — by Nathan Heller
On November 25th, after rejecting fourteen parole requests from Jens Soering and many other routes to extradition, the state of Virginia granted both him and Haysom parole, conditional on their respective deportations to Germany and Canada. On Monday night, Soering was loaded onto a jet, and on Tuesday he landed in Frankfurt, where he was greeted by German supporters and turned back into the world after more than thirty-three years behind bars.