Friday, November 13, 2015
Illinois Innocence Project at UIS announces Latino Innocence Initiative
The University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has announced the formation of the Latino Innocence Initiative. The purpose of the Initiative is to address unique vulnerabilities that Latinos face that lead to wrongful conviction of the innocent and difficulties in obtaining exoneration.
Reaching out to assist Latinos as part of its work is an important goal for the UIS innocence project.
"Almost 14% of Illinois inmates are Latinos who are often wrongfully convicted due to unique barriers involving language, citizenship, and status” said John Hanlon, executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project. “We hope to address these disparities which often lead to improper convictions and create difficulties for Latino inmates through working on their cases, encouraging understanding of the reasons for their treatment, and developing a reform agenda to minimize such wrongful convictions.”
This will be an ambitious undertaking that will need generous support from the community. Last week, Senator Richard Durbin announced a federal grant award for IIP to focus on those cases involving the wrongful conviction of a Latino where DNA might result in an exoneration. As part of that award, IIP will be hiring a bi-lingual attorney in the Chicago area to work on those cases.
IIP’s latest exoneree, Angel Gonzalez, encouraged the formation of this Initiative. Gonzalez, himself, was wrongfully convicted over 20 years ago due to a confession and identification that occurred as a result of his Latino heritage. “This is an important step in helping those Latinos who were convicted but are innocent,” Gonzalez said.
For more information, visit the Illinois Innocence Project website at www.uis.edu/illinoisinnocenceproject/.