Greetings to our friends near and far. The sun and spring have all arrived here in Connemara - as has a special black swan!
We want to thank you, as always, for your continued support. We are grateful for your help, as your kindness keeps us going and is the reason we can do what we do every day. Every gift helps. And every gift is welcome. Since Easter/Passover is a time of new beginnings, your gift will help give Exonerees a new beginning.
We hosted a group of 14 students who came to the Sunny Center along with their East Stroudsburg University professor, her mom, her child and another professor. We all visited the Human Rights Center at the National University of Galway Ireland where the group learned more about how NUIG teaches eager minds about the very real issues of social justice.
We met so many new exonerees at the annual Innocence Network conference, many of whom expressed an interest in coming to visit us in Ireland. We now have guests lined up to stay with us through August and some of them are coming with their partners. Hosting couples is something interesting and something new, but also something that makes sense since wrongful convictions impact, not only the Exoneree, but also their loved ones, as well. We look forward to opening our home to these remarkable couples who are going through the healing process together.
We traveled to San Diego, California for the annual Innocence Network Conference which was hosted this year by our dear friend Justin Brooks and his team at the California Innocence Project.
The conference drew 750 people – the most of any conference as it gets bigger and bigger every year. It was very successful and a satisfying mix of sessions for professionals, and others geared just for Exonerees, including a number on after care. What are the needs of people once they get them out? There was also a session for Exonerees and their families, which shows the growing awareness of the multi-layered impact of a wrongful conviction. Sunny’s daughter was there and joined Sunny for the family session. “It was amazing,” says Sunny. “She even got up and said a few words with me. She said, ‘This affected my life and we lost our parents and then we lost our grandparents. I think a lot more has to be done for the families.’ The whole room was crying. “ The hope is that even more children of Exonerees will come to next year’s conference, including one woman whose daughter became a lawyer to get her out. Interest is growing in this area; research is now underway examining what happens to the children of people who are wrongly convicted.
There was also a session for Exonerees and their partners to discuss how it impacts the ability to form relationships. When Peter and Sunny joined the group, they were applauded. “We want to be like you guys,” they said.
There was also a two-day retreat for women Exonerees in California that Sunny participated in which included a mask-making project. The idea is to distinguish between the mask everyone wears in public, especially those we wore in prison, and our private faces. Photos were taken of the masks and it will be used as part of a public awareness exhibit.
While we were there, we visited a prospective guest who was wrongly convicted and has been on death row for over 34 years. He is now awaiting due process on his case in county jail. He was so glad we were there and that he got to meet us in person. He talked about how wonderful it will be to come visit us at the Sunny Center when he gets out.
All our Furry Friends – the goats, dogs, cats and chickens - are all enjoying the longer days and shorter nights.
Easter and Passover greetings to all! We hope all your hopes for this Spring season are fulfilled.
Peace and Love,
Sunny and Peter