WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Some local bikers are helping bring attention to a problem concerning about one in 20 criminal cases. It’s estimated roughly 5% of prison inmates were wrongfully convicted.
On Sunday, an event on the grounds of Luzerne County Courthouse aimed to do something about it.
“When you go to jail wrongfully, you lose everything,” said Termaine Hicks.
Hicks should know. The Philadelphia man was convicted of a 2001 rape he did not commit. He served nearly two decades in prison before his conviction was overturned in 2020.
“And the day I walked out of the penitentiary, I had one box with me. That was it,” Hicks continued.
Hicks got his life back, but he was broke. Criminal cases like that is why Pennsylvania Bikers For Justice hosted a Wrongful Conviction Day Rally in Wilkes-Barre.
According to Bloomberg Law, 36 states provide exonerees payments averaging $50,000 a year for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned. Pennsylvania is not one of them.
“Men that’s coming home from the prison have nothing that are exonerated. They go back out to their families who continue the hardship of supporting them as they did when they were in prison for a crime that they did not commit.” Hicks explained.
“If you get, you get found guilty and you’re innocent and you get wrongfully convicted you come home… you get nothing. There’s nothing in place,” Larry Trent Roberts, who served 13 years for a wrongful conviction.
The toll a wrongful conviction takes is more than just financial.
“They suffer from health problems, employment problems. They have no job training,” said Northeastern Region President of the PA Bikers for Justice, Jake Ohaion
Their plight gets next to no public attention, which is why awareness events are critical to help right what is considered a terrible wrong.
“It needs to change and we need people to get involved. Period,” Hicks commented.
Hicks is founder and president of the anti-gun violence non-profit, S.T.E.P.U.P. It encourages critical thinking and conflict resolution.
Learn more about the criminal justice reform non-profit group, “The Innocence Project,” which Hicks credits for his freedom.