Arcadia’s Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice Department welcomed Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and Eugene Gilyard, who was exonerated after spending nearly two decades in prison, for the third annual Wrongful Convictions Day on Oct. 2.
The day started with discussions around prison conditions and wrongful convictions, facilitated by Dr. Anne Mahar and Dr. Favian Guertin-Martin, assistant professors of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice. Bluestine and Gilyard them discussed their personal experiences.
Wrongfully convicted of murdering Thomas Keal, Gilyard was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16. With the help of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, he was released 15 years later in November 2013, with all charges withdrawn by March 2013.
“On this day, the goal is to raise awareness on the causes of wrongful convictions and to recognize the emotional, social, and psychological problems that people endure who are wrongfully convicted,” said Dr. Guertin-Martin. “We believe that by educating the university community on this problem, we could potentially produce social change as some of our students will work within the criminal justice system.”
Dr. Guertin-Martin also noted that many exonerees struggle with finding employment and housing after their release, as their records are not expunged. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project was started in 2009, and works to exonerate those convicted of crimes they did not commit and to prevent innocent people from being convicted.
Criminal Justice students work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project on research that promote the organization’s mission. They are currently recruiting students to help with several projects. For more information, contact Dr. Guertin-Martin or Dr. John Noakes, associate professor and chair of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, who has helped to forge an important relationship between Arcadia and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project over the past few years.