Imagine yourself as a 17-year-old who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison. This is just what happened to Attorney Jarrett Adams as a young man fresh out of high school. He spent nearly a decade behind bars appealing to the Wisconsin court system to overturn his wrongful conviction.
With the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, his conviction was overturned and Jarrett was exonerated. Shortly after his release, he enrolled in college. He went on to graduate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Currently, he is a respected criminal attorney who fights for the rights of other wrongfully convicted prisoners.
Sadly, Jarrett Adams is just one of many American citizens who has spent time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Not only is our criminal justice system unfair at times, but many of the officials who operate the system are reluctant to take responsibility for their errors.
Alarming Facts About Wrongful Convictions in the United States
In theory, justice is blind. But when it comes to the convictions of persons of color, the justice system can’t see past the color of their skin. Blacks and Latinos are arrested and convicted at a much higher rate than their white counterparts.
Prison sentences affect more than just the people who are incarcerated. They impact the lives of children, parents and spouses. Wrongful convictions can take a toll on our communities and future generations.
Men and women who are wrongfully convicted of crimes miss out on life experiences and lose valuable time with loved ones. Other effects of wrongful convictions are financial difficulties, mental health challenges and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Here are a few facts about wrongful convictions that may surprise you.
- Black men are 3.5 times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of rape crimes.
- More than 310 Latinx people have been exonerated because of wrongful convictions within the past 30 years.
- 2500+ men and women have been exonerated since 1989.
- On average, exonerated persons spend 9 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
What Jarrett Adams Wants Us to Know About Wrongful Convictions
Wrongful convictions can happen to any person at any time. That’s why we must be diligent about helping people who are serving time for crimes they didn’t commit. You never know if you, a family member or friend will have to face this type of injustice in the future.
Jarret says, “Don’t think for a second it can’t happen to you or a loved one. Justice should be a two-way street. If we find that the wrong person is in jail, we must get them out immediately.”
Obtaining adequate legal representation is an issue for low-income defendants. In Jarrett’s case, he was represented by a panel attorney who gave him catastrophic legal advice. Like most wrongfully convicted persons, he didn’t have the money to hire a private lawyer.
“It was never about the truth in my case. It was about who I was, who was accusing me and what resources did I have. For me, my case was a wake-up call about what it is like to be underprivileged in the criminal justice system,” says Jarrett.
How to Help a Loved One Who Has Been Wrongfully Accused of a Crime
You can’t overturn a wrongful conviction by sending angry letters or lashing out at authorities. The United States criminal justice system doesn’t respond to emotions. If you want to help a loved one who has been wrongfully imprisoned, you must go through the judicial process.
In his legal series ‘The Legal Breakdown’, Jarrett offers some sound advice about how to obtain a pro bono attorney for a loved one who has been wrongfully convicted.
Here are a few tips that he recommends.
- Research pro bono attorneys.
- Get the right case number from the court clerk’s office.
- Obtain complete trial records.
- Keep all original copies of the file.
- Scan and upload documents to a cloud file.
- Categorize the documents into different files.
- Draft an email to the pro bono attorney and provide a link to the trial file.
- Prepare questions for the attorney and be patient throughout the process.
Through his personal experience, Jarrett understands how a wrongful conviction can turn a person’s world upside down. That is why he has dedicated his legal career to protecting civil rights and overturning wrongful convictions.
About Corporate Counsel Men of Color
Joining a professional organization such as Corporate Counsel Men of Color can help you connect with like-minded professionals. Ready to learn more about Corporate Counsel Men of Color? Enroll in our organization today.
Do you want to find out how you can help Jarrett Adams and support his mission? Explore the following resources for additional information.
- Redeeming Justice: From Defendant to Defender, My Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System by Jarrett Adams
- Life After Justice
- Jarrett Adams Law
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