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March 5, 2019 at 11:29 am

Students Attend Ohio Innocence Project Conference, Network With Other Chapters

Group shot of Students at OIP-u Conference led by OHIO alum Pierce Reed

Students attend OIP-u Conference led by OHIO alum Pierce Reed

Six current Ohio University undergraduate and graduate students attended the Ohio Innocence Project and OIP-u 2019 Spring Conference in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 21-22.

OIP-u is the undergraduate advocate network of the Ohio Innocence Project, a project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted Ohioans. OIP-u, a student organization affiliated with the Center for Law, Justice & Culture at Ohio University, works to raise awareness and support the Ohio Innocence Project’s efforts to free the wrongfully convicted and to educate the community about wrongful incarceration’s causes and consequences. Eight universities, including Ohio University, Ohio State University, and the University of Cincinnati have OIP-u chapters. Since it’s founding in 2003. OIP has helped 28 people to secure their release from prison for crimes that they did not commit.

The conference was lead by Ohio University alumnus Pierce Reed, who serves as Policy Coordinator and Systems Liaison at the OIP.  The schedule covered a variety of topics such as the use of social media, fundraising, development, and annual programming. Reed, A.B. 1986 in Psychology, received the Notable Alumni Award from the College of Arts & Sciences.

“It was great to talk to all students from other schools and hear some of the actions that they are taking. I was then able to spin their ideas about public awareness to fit the culture at Ohio University to get students involved in the wrongful incarceration process,” said Ohio University senior Logan Swafford, who is studying Sociology-Criminology and Psychology.

Jada Sparks, a junior studying Political Science and Sociology-Criminology, with a Certificate in Law, Justice & Culture and OIP-u Ohio University Chapter President, says that she decided to join the organization after attending an event on campus last year.

“I got to hear a story from Kwame Ajamu, a man exonerated with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, after serving 28 years of his life sentence. Hearing Kwame Ajamu tell his incredible experience inspired me to want to bring awareness of wrongful convictions at Ohio University,” Sparks said.

Freshman Kheara Wright says that her favorite part of the conference was learning about, “the eagerness OIP has to maintain contact with its university chapters and the immense amount of help they offered to make sure we can spread their message to college students and people in our communities. It’s great to know you are working with an organization that is willing to help you whenever you need it.”

“The OIP conference was a great opportunity for OIP and the OIP-u chapters across the state to come together in one place to discuss resources, expectations, and programming, said CLJC Pre-Law Advisor Larry Hayman. “Having so many students and advisers in one place committed to innocence work was really inspiring. I look forward to future collaborations with OIP and other OIP-u chapters across the state.”

Students were selected to attend the conference by virtue of their serving on executive board of OIP-u, including Sparks, Swafford, and Wright, as well as Grace Williams and Olivia LoGuidice, a sophomore studying Sociology-Criminology and Psychology. In addition to the undergraduates, Devin Ordich, a graduate student pursuing an M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture who is currently working on a research project at OIP, attended the conference.

The Ohio Innocence Project and CLJC will host two of the exonerees of the San Antonio Four for a panel discussion on Thursday, March 21, from 6 to 9 p.m. in Siegfred 519. The event will also feature a screening of the documentary Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four.  

Those interested in joining OIP-u should contact Chapter President Jada Sparks at js342515@ohio.edu.

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