Monday, October 5, 2020

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS educates public on International Wrongful Conviction Day

Oct. 2 is International Wrongful Conviction Day, and the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield is raising awareness for the causes of wrongful conviction.

The Executive Director of the Illinois Innocence Project at UIS, John Hanlon, said members of the organization created a flag display on the campus quad to make a statement.

"It has a very kind of in your face, symbolic representation," Hanlon said.

The flags are more than pieces of fabric. Hanlon said they represent the lives of people who have been wrongfully imprisoned.

According to Hanlon, the black flags represent the 2,662 people who have been exonerated in the United States since 1989, while the blue flags represent the 336 people who have been exonerated in Illinois.

"The flags represent those people, who are breathing, living and moving, and who had to spend years in a box," Hanlon said.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, the people these flags represent collectively lost nearly 24,000 years of lives.

"We have more people in prison than any other country in the world," Hanlon said. "That's 2.2 million plus. If 4 percent of those people are innocent, that's a lot of people."

A student employee for the Innocence Project at UIS, Taryn Christy, said there are many causes behind wrongful imprisonment.

"I believe somewhere around 70 percent of wrongful incarcerations include some form of eyewitness misidentifications," Christy said. "False confessions are one of the biggest causes of wrongful incarceration. People always think, I would never confess to something I didn't do, but all kinds of circumstances lead people to falsely confess."

This story aired on WAND on October 2, 2020..