WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Wrongful convictions are a big problem across the country and in Pennsylvania. On Sunday, a group of advocates came together to raise awareness and bring about change.
Monday is Wrongful Conviction Day, and in honor of that, a group that fights for justice held a rally to raise awareness.
Sunday afternoon on the steps of the Luzerne County Courthouse, Pennsylvania Bikers for Justice rallied to raise awareness for people who have been wrongfully convicted. The group is hoping to encourage lawmakers to pass a bill to compensate wrongful convictions in Pennsylvania. Many states provide exonerees payments for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned, but the Keystone state is not one of them.
“Without the help of family members and friends, I don’t know what I would have done, because unfortunately, Pennsylvania happens to be one of the states that doesn’t have compensation in place for us,” said Harrisburg resident Larry Roberts.
In 1989, Yeidja Bostick was wrongfully convicted of vehicular manslaughter. She has since been proven innocent and is now free after a Philadelphia newspaper shared her story. The story reached eyewitnesses to the scene of the crash who were willing to testify on her behalf.
“I was involved in an auto collision, I was a passenger in the car. A police officer accused me of driving the car, and there was a big collision and a lady died in one of the other vehicles,” said Yeidja Bostick from Philadelphia.
Many of the people 28/22 News spoke to said the hardest part of returning home is rebuilding the life they once had from scratch.
Roberts was a business owner before he lost everything when he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“After I got out, it was rough. I had to start all over, I had to find employment. I second-guessed myself. It was hard to work,” Roberts explained.
The toll of a wrongful conviction is more than just financial. Many also struggle with mental health.
“Social paranoia was like the biggest struggle because in a sense, being incarcerated was a bit safe. We knew that no one was in there carrying guns and the crime level inside is really not gonna be anything like on the outside world,” said Bostick.
“You go through a lot of mental health just being in jail so just having to start all over learning how to use a, learning how to use a debit card, learning how to start a bank account,” Roberts added.
Pennsylvania Bikers for Justice has been helping people who were wrongfully convicted since 1997.