In 1996, 17-year-old Jarrett Adams was falsely convicted of rape and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Similar to another exoneree mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago, Adams dedicated himself to the learning what he could about the law while behind bars, and convinced Wisconsin Innocence Project to take his case. After being exonerated of the crime and released from prison in 2006, Adams was determined to become a lawyer so that he could help others escape wrongful convictions and return to their lives. While many exonerees have the desire to help others, few realize this dream; Adams, however, is well on his way.
Today, Adams is in his final year of law school at Loyola University and is in the process of launching his own nonprofit organization to help other exonerees transition into their lives after prison. In a Loyola Law feature written about the project—named Life after Justice—we're reminded of how grim a situation one can enter as s/he leaves prison: "[exonerees] frequently have no money, no place to live, no ID or access to medical care, few current technology skills, and only the clothes they're wearing". Laura Caldwell, a fellow Loyola grad, founded Life After Innocence to help address this problem. The program, which is run by Loyola Law Students (directed by Caldwell), offers free legal services and guidance to individuals released from prison for crimes they didn't commit. Life after Justice will take this support one step further by offering exonerees a place to live, one need they too often do not have available.
A fellow exoneree, Antoine Day is third partner in the Life After Justice project (in addition to Adams and Caldwell). Day is equally passionate about helping others who have had troubled experiences with the criminal justice system, mentoring at-risk youth and parolees among other efforts. Adams spoke of their shared vision by saying, "This will be not just a house but also a launching pad, with an emphasis on mentoring and therapy. We're taking broken men and helping them put their lives back together". The house has been secured, a boarded up building in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side, and plans are underway.
Adams' story can certainly offer hope to those wrongfully convicted of a crime—through determination, tireless work, and the sheer refusal to accept anything but success, he has turned his life around. Soon, when other Chicagoans' convictions are overturned, he will open his doors to them to help them do the same.