Wednesday, March 22, 2017

UIS Illinois Innocence Project announces "The Central Park Five" documentary viewing

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) at the University of Illinois Springfield, in partnership with WSEC/Network Knowledge and the Hoogland Center for the Arts, will host a special viewing of the award-winning Ken Burns documentary “The Central Park Five” from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

The documentary tells the story of the five black and Latino teens from Harlem who were convicted in 1989 of raping a 28-year-old white woman in New York City’s Central Park. DNA evidence and a confession by a serial rapist later cleared Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Yusuf Salaam and Raymond Santana in 2002, after the five had spent as long as 13 years in prison. The film chronicles the “Central Park Jogger” case from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by a miscarriage of justice.

The documentary showing is a preview to IIP’s Defenders of the Innocent Event, which will feature Exoneree Yusef Salaam, one of the “Central Park Five” teenagers who at age 15 was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned, and Yusef’s mother, Sharonne Salaam. Sharonne fought tirelessly to prove the innocence of her son and the other boys until they were fully exonerated by DNA 13 years later.

The special viewing will feature hors d’ouevres and a cash bar reception prior to the documentary start at 5:30 p.m. Intermission will include a Q&A with IIP attorneys. The story of “The Central Park Five” raises important questions about race and class, the failings of our criminal justice system, legal protections for vulnerable juveniles, and basic human rights.

Seating is limited for this free documentary showing. Reservations are recommended by contacting or calling 217/494-0823.

Illinois Innocence Project’s Defenders of the Innocent Event 

Yusef and Sharonne will keynote the Illinois Innocence Project’s 10th annual fundraising event – the Defenders of the Innocent – on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield.

IIP is dedicated to releasing innocent men and women imprisoned in Illinois for crimes they did not commit. It advocates on behalf of this silenced population by researching and investigating claims of innocence, providing legal representation and other assistance to prove credible claims of actual innocence, educating students and the public about criminal justice system failures that lead to wrongful convictions, and working with policymakers and law enforcement to change rules, laws and practices to minimize wrongful convictions.

The Project has achieved 10 exonerations since its founding in 2001, with four of those occurring over the past two years. IIP receives over 300 requests for help from Illinois inmates each year. Undergraduates at the University of Illinois Springfield and law students from the state’s three public law schools work alongside and at the direction of IIP attorneys to review, evaluate and, where strong evidence of actual innocence exists, investigate and legally pursue claims of innocence.

The Defenders of the Innocent Event on April 29 will begin with an hors d’oeuvres and cash bar cocktail reception at 5 p.m. followed by a dinner and program at 6 p.m. Individual reservations are $100 and a table of 10 is $900. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Full event and sponsorship information is at

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

UIS Speaker Series explores “The Failure of the War on Drugs: Finding Humanity in an Unjust System”

Photo Credit: Roc Martin

WHAT: The University of Illinois Springfield Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Speaker Series and Springfield Dominican Sisters present “The Failure of the War on Drugs: Finding Humanity in an Unjust System”.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: UIS Brookens Auditorium, located on the lower level of Brookens Library

DETAILS: Major Neill Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, will lead a discussion on his belief that the war on drugs is failing society.

Franklin, a former narcotics agent, said his steadfast belief in fighting the drug war was changed initially by the Mayor of Baltimore who declared that the drug war was not working, was counter-productive and created excessive violence. The loss of a close friend and fellow agent while making an undercover drug deal sealed that belief.

As the Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Franklin now advocates for the regulation and control of drugs and a law enforcement approach that defends human rights and views drug misusers as persons in need of treatment instead of punishment.

Individuals with disabilities who anticipate the need for accommodations should contact the UIS Speaker Series Office at 217/206-8507 or in advance.

For a list of other upcoming ECCE Speaker Series events, visit All events are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nationally recognized STEM summer camp coming to the University of Illinois Springfield

WHAT: The University of Illinois Springfield will host Camp Invention, the nation’s premier summer enrichment day camp program. The camp is a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The weeklong day camp for students entering grades first through six turns the summer from ordinary to extraordinary though hands-on problem solving, collaboration, and the use of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

WHEN: June 19-23, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: UIS Campus (Founders & University Hall)

DETAILS: Inventive young minds can exercise their creativity and use their imagination, all while learning and developing new skills they typically don’t get to use in the classroom. Children are empowered to have big ideas while they take on challenges that inspire them to question, brainstorm, work as a team and build amazing invention prototypes.

This year’s new, action-packed Camp Invention curriculum titled “LAUNCH” features several hands-on modules:
  • Duct Tape Billionaire: Campers design duct tape products they can market and sell to mock investors;
  • Have a Blast: Children build high-tech Bubble Blasters and compete as a team in friendly air battles that use physics to boost their advantage;
  • Mission Space Makers: Teams hatch eggs, sprout living plants and grow crystal trees, all while on a mission to locate and prepare a new planet for human habitation; and
  • Operation Keep Out: Campers learn to reverse engineer old machines and devices, and use their parts to create the ultimate Spy Gadget Alarm Box. 
Parents are asked to register their children by March 20, 2017 using the online form at

The Springfield program will be led by Harshavardhan Bapat, Ph.D., UIS associate professor of chemistry. For more information, contact him at 217/206-7744 or