FAITH NEWS SERVICE – Saginaw, MI: On Sunday, August 16 at 4pm EST, a panel of community leaders, legal professionals, activists, and criminal justice experts will come together for a virtual town hall discussion purposed to expand the national conversation around police brutality and killings to include the untold narratives of thousands of black men who have been wrongfully incarcerated and sentenced to die in prison due to the broad scope of police misconduct.
The town hall is sponsored by A Life for A Life Urban Initiative, a grassroots organization founded in Michigan in 2013 to help advocate for social injustice. This online event is the third segment of the organization’s three-part virtual town hall summer series titled ‘The Truth About Police Misconduct and the Mass Incarceration of Black Men in America.” This final segment of the town hall series is subtitled “The Families Tell All” and will focus on systemic racism in the criminal justice system and the impact of mass incarceration on the black family and community. In addition, it will also issue a call to action to demand that police and prosecutors be held accountable for their choices; especially in Detroit, MI where police misconduct, false findings in evidence, and hiding exculpatory evidence has gained national media attention for more than a decade. More specifically, the town hall will spotlight pending exoneration cases in Michigan that allege police misconduct and provide a platform for the affected families to share their personal experiences with the community.
The featured panelists are Tiffany Pruitt, Supervisor of Human Resources, Saginaw Public Schools; Pastor Chris V. Pryor, Victorious Believers Ministries COGIC, Saginaw; Demetrius Titus, Program Associate of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Michigan Criminal Justice Program; Karla D. Thomas, M.A., Marriage and Family Therapy, Until Today Counseling Services and Attorney Janey Lamar of the Lamar Law Firm. The moderator is Barbara M. Littles, Esq., CEO of Purpose by Design.
Among the cases to be discussed will be those of Robert T. Hinds and Alphonso Clark, Jr., both inmates currently housed at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, MI. Charged with first-degree premeditated murder and possession of a felony firearm at the age of 17, Hinds was convicted of both charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole. After maintaining his innocence for years (specifically that he had no involvement with the crimes he was convicted of) and with the assistance of supporters, Hinds discovered a miscellaneous case file maintained by the Detroit Police Department. This case file contained exculpatory evidence that was wrongfully withheld from his state-appointed defense attorney during his trial in 2001. Within this miscellaneous case file, Hinds discovered the existence of an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting his claims of actual innocence including witness statements, DNA evidence, and usable fingerprints.
After losing over 19 years of his life in prison while pursuing every investigative lead to help gather enough evidence to prove his innocence, in April 2020, Hinds was finally able to file an exoneration application with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit that alleges police misconduct in his case. However, things are not progressing as quickly as he had hoped. According to a Detroit News article published on May 25, 2020, the Conviction Integrity Unit with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has been assigned to look into Hinds’ case, but assistant prosecutor Maria Miller said, “The status is that it is an open case. They have not done any work on it yet.”
While Hinds awaits news of his freedom in a Michigan prison, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the lives of people across the world, including the prisoners and staff throughout Michigan’s prisons. With 68 prisoners across the state already reported dead on the MDOC website, Hinds states that he especially fears that the pandemic could threaten his life before his expectant release from prison.
Concerned family and friends of Hinds have started a petition on his behalf to urge the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit to expedite the investigation of his exoneration application. Supporters can sign the petition at www.change.org/freeroberthinds and financial donations to help support his exoneration process can be made at www.gofundme.com/freeroberthinds. More information about Hinds’ exoneration journey and community service over the years can be found at www.growingboys2men.blogspot.com. Hinds can also be contacted directly at www.jpay.com using the inmate ID 410196.
The virtual town hall meeting will be streamed via Facebook Live from the business page of A Life for a Life Urban Initiative at www.facebook.com/growingboys2men.