Interview: The Lotus Project Wants You To Know About the Wrongfully Convicted
Youth for Positive Change had the opportunity of speaking with The Lotus Project team about their work in sharing the stories of the wrongfully convicted and newly exonerated.
What was the motivation behind starting The Lotus Project?
The inspiration for the project started in a Law in American Society class at our school (Whitney M Young Magnet High School.) One day, our teacher showed us a documentary on the wrongful imprisonment of Marcus Wiggins. For those who don’t know, Marcus Wiggins was a man convicted of the murder of Theopolis Teague, in Chicago in 1998. The documentary outlined how the officers involved in the Wiggins’ case worked actively to send him to prison, which we were appalled by.
Later in the year, we were told that we were required to complete a service project, and our minds immediately sprang to Marcus Wiggins. We thought that we could create an initiative dedicated to raising awareness about him, so he could be exonerated. Just around when we started planning for the project, however, Marcus was found not guilty, and was released from prison.
We were ecstatic for him, but also came to realize that his case was not an anomaly: there were so many other people out there who had been wrongfully imprisoned and whose stories hadn’t been told.
So, we decided to do something about it: we started the Lotus Project. The rest is history.
Looking through your Instagram account, I came across a couple of the stories of the exonerated inmates you interviewed in your documentary. Its powerful stuff, and it shows that behind every exonerated inmate is a human, who wants to do well and live their life. Do you think that if people were to meet former inmates – or watch your documentary – that their opinions on justice and incarceration would change?
Absolutely! People are quick to judge when they hear that someone is incarcerated. However, it’s vital we realize that in the U.S., innocent people are frequently put into jail. In fact, according to a report by the National Registry of Exonerations, the percent of wrongful conviction in the U.S. is between 2% and 10% – a shocking number! A key aspect of our project has been following a practice of non-judgment, that is, keeping an open mind until all the facts are laid out.
What has the response been to your work so far?
Our work has been really well received – we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. A lot of the comments that we get are from people who are surprised to realize that our project was entirely student-led, and done during a period of remote work and education.
We’re also going to showcase the project to our entire school and have a discussion panel to finish it off, which we’re excited for.
What does the future look like for The Lotus Project?
It would be amazing if the project gained traction nationally, so that we could continue to tell the stories of those wrongfully accused and support them in their efforts to prove their innocence. Honestly, there are so many options that we’re exploring – so stay tuned!
Finally, how can those interested support your work?
Our YouTube channel where the final product of our documentary will be aired is named “The Lotus Project”.
We also have multiple social media accounts that those interested can follow: