LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Jermaine Dickerson said mistreatment by correctional officers while in prison for a wrongful rape conviction cost him his tooth. On Saturday, that cost was mitigated by a Las Vegas dental clinic.

Dickerson, who grew up in the Bay Area of California, was falsely accused of the rape of a 15-year-old girl at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, California. In 1998, he was convicted of the sexual abuse of a child.

Investigators at the time did not find DNA evidence linking Dickerson to the crime. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to nine years in prison. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Dickerson had followed his public defender’s advice to take a plea agreement.

“Going into prison at 18 years old, like with that type of jacket on your record,” said Dickerson. “You’re a target.”

In 2020, however, the girl who accused him of rape admitted that she had lied. In 2021, Dickerson’s conviction was vacated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

“Being falsely accused for a crime that I didn’t commit, and then having to live with that for 23 years, and knowing that I was innocent the whole time, was a struggle. It was hard,” Dickerson said. 

The Innocence Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “free or exonerate hundreds of wrongfully convicted people,” cites several studies indicating that 40,000 to 100,000 wrongfully convicted people are incarcerated in the United States.

On Saturday, Diamond Dental Group, a family dentist office located at Decatur Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road in Las Vegas, offered free dental work to patients unable to take on the financial burden. It’s called the Smile Generation Service. Dr. Zarina Sicat said she likes to give back throughout the year, but that this day — this service — is special to her.

“I realized that there’s just so much work that needs to be done,” Sicat said.

Diamond Dental Group saw approximately 18 patients on Saturday, performing about $46,000 worth of work for free.

Dickerson said he is grateful for his visit, and to have an improved smile which he hopes to show off with his newfound freedom.

“Being found innocent, actually innocent, is the greatest peace I can have,” Dickerson said.