Unlocking Hope Conference

Unlocking Hope: Addressing Postrelease Trauma in the Wrongfully Convicted

Conference Details

October 4th, 2024
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
St. John’s University
D’Angelo Center Ballroom
Queens, NY, Campus

This conference, hosted by the CCPS Criminal Justice and Homeland Security department, in conjunction with the St. John's College Psychology department, addresses an issue affecting individuals who have been wrongly incarcerated that has not received sufficient attention from the professional community: the importance of considering not only the aftermath in the lives of individuals who are forced to endure the devastating impact of being deprived of their freedom, but also the resulting traumatic consequences and the psychological devastation caused by such injustice to these individuals, as well as their families and friends.

Once endured, it can continue to negatively impact their everyday existence, eroding from within their views of the world as they suffer from severe self-doubt, low self-esteem, and a sense of hopelessness, not to mention a loss of trust in our justice system. Much is needed to address the reintegration challenges associated with such a miscarriage of justice, including housing, educational opportunities, employment, and mental health interventions. This conference is meant to highlight these challenges by inviting all stakeholders to become part of developing solutions that will make a difference. 

The following questions will be discussed: 

  • What is the nature of the trauma suffered by those wrongly incarcerated? 
  • What types of assessment tools should we consider to obtain a more accurate psychological picture of the experience associated with wrongful incarceration? 
  • What is the nature of the services that will be most helpful (e.g., education, employment, housing, skill development, trauma-focused, etc.) to facilitate their reintegration into society from a position of strength?

Conference Sponsors

A special thanks to our generous sponsors for this event. 
Deskovic Foundation: https://www.deskovicfoundation.org

Deskovic Foundation
The Society for Police and Criminal Society



Conference Speakers

Jeffrey Deskovic

Jeffrey Deskovic, Esq., MA, is an esteemed lawyer, wrongful conviction expert, and a fervent advocate for criminal justice reform. As the founder of The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, he has played a pivotal role in freeing 14 wrongfully convicted individuals and has been instrumental in the passage of six crucial laws designed to prevent wrongful convictions. His advocacy extends beyond the courtroom and legislative chambers; Jeff has delivered over 200 presentations across the globe, authored more than 200 articles in various prestigious publications, and made countless appearances in media outlets to shed light on the injustices within the criminal justice system.

Jeff's journey to advocacy is as compelling as his accomplishments. Wrongfully convicted at the age of 17 for a crime he did not commit, he spent 16 arduous years in prison before DNA evidence vindicated him. This profound injustice fueled his determination to combat wrongful convictions and support those unjustly imprisoned. Jeff utilized compensation received post-exoneration to establish his foundation, which, despite financial challenges, has thrived due to his personal commitment and the support of the community in recent years.

With an academic background enriched by a Master's Degree, with a thesis written on wrongful conviction causes and reforms, Jeff's expertise is recognized widely. He has twice co-taught a wrongful conviction college course, instructed police cadets on ethics, and served as a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) instructor, sharing insights on wrongful convictions with judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. His work extends to notable collaborations, including efforts to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut and to prevent its reinstatement in New York.

Internationally, Jeff's influence is profound. He has engaged with judicial and legal professionals in Taiwan, Argentina, Armenia, India, Brazil, and Canada, advocating for justice reform and sharing his insights on wrongful convictions and restorative justice. His commitment to reform is evident in his continuous efforts to lobby for legislative changes, educate through social media and public speaking, and collaborate with organizations like It Could Happen To You, Restorative Justice International, The Right To Remain Silent Coalition, and others dedicated to justice reform.

Jeff's passion extends to broader criminal justice issues, including parole reform, medical care in prison, compassionate release, over sentencing, mass incarceration, education for prisoners, and prison reform. He has actively participated in rallies, legislative hearings, press conferences, and media interviews to advocate for these causes, demonstrating his commitment to not only exonerating the innocent but also improving the overall conditions within the criminal justice system. Jeff is the co-owner of the Recharge Beyond The Bars Re-Entry Game.

Jeffrey Deskovic's life and work epitomize resilience and dedication to justice. His story, detailed in the documentary "Conviction", is available on Amazon Prime, and his ongoing efforts make him a beacon of hope and a powerful voice in the fight against wrongful convictions and for comprehensive criminal justice reform.

James Garbarino

James Garbarino received his PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University in 1973. He is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Cornell University and at Loyola University Chicago. From 2006-2020, he held the Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and was founding Director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago. From 1995-2006, he was Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Development and Co-Director of the Family Life Development Center at Cornell University. He earned his B.A. from St. Lawrence University in 1968. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Garbarino has served as consultant or advisor to a wide range of organizations, including the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, the National Institute for Mental Health, the American Medical Association, the National Black Child Development Institute, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the FBI. In 1991, he undertook missions for UNICEF to assess the impact of the Gulf War upon children in Kuwait and Iraq, and advises programs dealing with literacy as a resource in dealing with trauma in El Salvador and India.


Among the books he has authored or edited are: Listening to Killers: Lessons Learned from My 20 Years as a Psychological Expert Witness in Murder Cases (2015), Miller’s Children: Why Giving Teenage Killers a Second Chance Matters for All of Us (2018), Children and the Dark Side of Human Experience (2008), See Jane Hit: Why Girls Are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It (2006). And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence  (2002); Parents Under Siege: Why You Are the Solution, Not the Problem, in Your Child’s Life (2001); Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them (1999); Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment (1995); Let's Talk About Living in a World with Violence (1993); Children in Danger: Coping With The Consequences of Community Violence (1992); Children and Families in the Social Environment, Second edition (1992); What Children Can Tell Us (1989); No Place To Be A Child: Growing Up In A War Zone (1991); Psychologically Battered Child (1986); Troubled Youth, Troubled Families (1986); Adolescent Development: An Ecological Perspective (1985); Social Support Networks (1983); Successful Schools and Competent Students (1981); Understanding Abusive Families (1980; Second Edition, 1997); and Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect (1980). Dr. Garbarino serves as a consultant for media reports on children and families. In 1981, he received the Silver Award at the International Film and Television Festival of New York for co-authoring "Don't Get Stuck There: A Film on Adolescent Abuse." In 1985, he collaborated with John Merrow to produce "Assault on the Psyche," a program dealing with psychological abuse. Since 1994, he has served as a scientific expert witness in criminal cases involving issues of violence and children.


The National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect honored Dr. Garbarino in 1985 with its first C. Henry Kempe Award, in recognition of his efforts on behalf of abused and neglected children. In 1979, and again in 1981, he received the Mitchell Prize from the Woodlands Conference on Sustainable Societies. In 1987, he was elected President of the American Psychological Association's Division on Child, Youth and Family Services. In 1988, he received the American Humane Association's Vincent De Francis Award for nationally significant contributions to child protection. In 1989, he received the American Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service, and in 1992, the Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues prize for research on child abuse. In 1993, he received the Brandt F. Steele Award from the Kempe National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, and in 1994 the American Psychological Association's Division on Child, Youth and Family Services’ Nicholas Hobbs Award.  Also in 1994, he received the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics.  In 1995, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by St. Lawrence University. In 1999, he received the Humanitarian Award from the University of Missouri’s International Center for Psychosocial Trauma. In 2000, he received the President’s Celebrating Success Award from the National Association of School Psychologists, and in 2003 the Outstanding Service to Children Award of the Chicago Association for the Education of Young Children. In 2011, he received the Max Hayman Award from the American Orthopsychiatric Association for contributions to the prevention of genocide. In 2015, he received the Rosenberry Award from Colorado Children’s Hospital in Denver, for his work in advancing clinical insight into children and youth. In 2016, he received the Paul Fink Interpersonal Violence Prevention Award from the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence. In 2018, he was cited by the American Psychological Association as one of 33 “Influential Psychologists” for his work on trauma.

Derrick Hamilton

Derrick Hamilton, a man who spent over two decades battling the challenges of prison life, has emerged as a symbol of resilience and justice. Throughout his lengthy incarceration, he faced the harsh realities of correctional facilities, enduring even prolonged periods in solitary confinement, all while vehemently asserting his innocence. After years of unrelenting effort, Hamilton's determination bore fruit, leading to his parole and the subsequent vacating and dismissal of his conviction. Today, Derrick Hamilton teaches Cardozo law students at the Perlmutter Freedom Clinic, where he imparts his knowledge and experience to aspiring lawyers, emphasizing the importance of defending clients who have been wrongfully convicted or are seeking clemency for unjustly prolonged prison sentences. His life's trajectory serves as a powerful testament to the enduring spirit of justice and the capacity for personal transformation.

Felipe Rodriguez

Felipe Rodriguez, a then auxiliary police officer, he was wrongfully convicted of murder in Queens and served 27 years prior to being released via clemency by the then NY Governor. 3 years later, he was exonerated with the consent of the Queens DA's office during their last day in the office, based upon multiple pieces of key exculpatory information which had been withheld. 

Kathryn Thomas

Kathryn Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., is a Clinical Lecturer in Law and Associate Research Scholar at Yale Law School’s Justice Collaboratory and Yale School of Medicine’s SEICHE Center for Health and Justice. She is a clinical psychologist and lawyer by training, and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Her research interests sit at the intersection of psychology and the criminal legal system. She is particularly interested in the health-harming impacts of incarceration and wrongful conviction from a legal epidemiological perspective, and factors that impact trajectories of psychological adjustment upon re-entry following incarceration. She is a licensed psychologist and has conducted forensic evaluations and provided evidence-based therapy to justice-involved clients in a variety of forensic settings (including a forensic hospital, juvenile court clinic, and forensic drug diversion program). She recently completed her clinical internship at Yale School of Medicine’s Doctoral Internship in Clinical and Community Psychology, and she currently works as a Mitigation Research and Writing Attorney at the Officer of the Federal Public Defender in the District of Connecticut. 


Rafael Art. Javier is a Professor of Psychology and the Director of Inter-agencies Training and Research Initiatives, the Post-Graduate Professional Development Programs, and the Postdoctoral Certificate Programs in Forensic Psychology at St. John’s University. He also functioned as the first and founding Director of the Center for Psychological Services and Clinical Studies at St. John's University for almost 20 years. Prior to joining St. John’s University, he was the head of psychology at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center and on the faculty at Downstate Medical Center. He was on the faculty and a supervisor at New York University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry. He is currently a supervisor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program, a faculty and supervisor at the Object Relations Institute, and founding member of the Center of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLAS). 

Dr. Javier has presented at national and international conferences including on issues of violence and trauma and the impact on general cognitive and emotional functioning. He has published extensively on the subject, including several co-edited and coauthored books. His most recent books include “Understanding Domestic Violence: Theories, challenges, and Remedies,” co-edited with William Herron published by Rowman and Littlefield in August 2018 and another book coedited with Drs. Elizabeth Owen and Jemour Maddux entitled “Assessing Trauma in Forensic Context” and published by Springer Publications in March 2020. In 2024, his new book cowritten with his colleague, William Herron, entitled ‘The Patient As The Center: Integrating Psychodynamic Approaches with Other Mental Health Treatments” was published by Rowman and Littlefield where the issue of trauma in criminality was also addressed. He was the 2017-2018 President of the Forensic Division of the New York State Psychological Association and the past vice-president of the Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology. 

Rodney Roberts

Rodney Roberts, a native of Newark, New Jersey, wrongfully served 18 years in Rahway State Prison as a result of being coerced into pleading guilty to a crime he did not commit.

In spite of struggling with the immense feeling that came with pleading guilty, Rodney pushed forward with studying law and pursuing a higher education while falsely imprisoned. In 2014, as a pro se litigant and with the assistance of counsels and support from the Innocence Project, he was exonerated via DNA evidence. Since then, he has been on the frontline advocating for a more just criminal legal system, offering peer support to exonerees and their family members, and lending his experience to help pass legislation that addresses wrongful conviction.

Proudly, in 2022, Mr. Roberts was hired as the Innocence Project’s first Re-entry Coach under the guidance of the organization’s Social Work department. In this role, he continues to provide necessary care to those impacted by wrongful imprisonment — and share insights related to wrongful conviction.

Sharonne Salaam

Sharonne Salaam is an inspirational speaker, educator, advocate, activist and mother. She is the mother of Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five and now he is on the way to become the first Muslim NYC Council member of Harlem, NY. 

She began her social justice work as a result of the wrongful persecution of her son 1989. This lead to the founding of People United for Children (PUC); an organization which existed during that time. PUC advocated alongside parents whose children were in foster care. Many of these children ended up in prison along with those who formed the “school to prison pipeline”. Ms. Salaam has reunited thousands of children with their parents.

Sharonne Salaam is currently a founding member of Justice 4 The Wrongfully Incarcerated (J4WI). J4WI is an activist organization educating people about the effects of wrongful incarceration. J4WI assists people who believe in their innocence, works with their families and their communities. 

As part of her humanitarian efforts each year Ms. Salaam,  J4WI brings medical supplies to communities in Africa. These medical supplies are distributed by their community doctors free of charge to people in need. 

Sharonne Salaam is a former Columbia University Revson Fellow. She has received many awards and served on the board of WBAI 99.5 FM radio station, Harlem’s Community Board 10, and many others. 


Amy Shlosberg has a master’s degree in forensic psychology and a Ph.D in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is currently Department Chair and an Associate Professor of Criminology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Prior to academia Dr. Shlosberg provided direct care in the mental health field. She is also the co-host of the hit podcast Women and Crime.

Her primary research focuses on miscarriages of justice, the negative implications of incarceration and issues surrounding reentry, with an emphasis on policy and procedural reform. Her works in this area have been accepted for publication in several academic journals, including the Albany Law Review, Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Psychology, Crime & Law, Wrongful Conviction Law Review and Criminal Justice Policy Review. Her work has also been cited in the New York Times, Vice and USA Today. 

Ummer Ali

Ummer Ali has spent the majority of his social work career working at the intersection of Restorative Justice and Social Work. Currently employed at the Innocence Project, Ummer supports freed and exonerated people in their re-entry and reacclimation to society. Prior to the Innocence Project, Ummer worked as a Restorative Justice Coordinator at Bushwick High School, implementing campus-wide Restorative Justice and Mentoring efforts for youth. Ummer attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he received his B.S. in Criminology and Sociology with a minor in English Literature. He then received his Master's of Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work. 

Yusef Salaam

In 1989, at just fifteen years young, Yusef Salaam was tried and convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case along with four other Black and Latinx young men. The Exonerated Five spent between seven to 13 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit, until their sentences were overturned in 2002. 

Over the past two decades, Yusef has become a family man, father, poet, activist and inspirational speaker. It has been his mission to educate the public about the impact of mass incarceration and police brutality rooted in our justice system, regularly advocating for criminal justice reform, prison reform and the abolition of juvenile solitary confinement and capital punishment. He works to restore humanity denied to those incarcerated and those downtrodden by the spiked wheels of justice.

 A lifelong resident of Harlem, Yusef was victorious in the General Election for New York City Council (District 9) on November 7, 2023, with a clear mission in mind: to serve as a voice for the community and work towards creating a better future for all New Yorkers. His experiences in the criminal justice system are the inspiration behind him speaking up and advocating for those who are marginalized and forgotten by the powers that be. 

Yusef’s transition to New York City Council is powered by the people and focused on building a coalition that represents the diverse voices of District 9. Yusef regularly reaches out to constituents of all ages and backgrounds, including long-time residents, young activists, and disenchanted residents. He believes in uniting our community and speaking to the systemic issues we face each day, to energize and activate those who are eager for change. 

Yusef was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (2014) and is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama (2016). More recently has shared his story and stance on current issues on CNN, MSNBC, REVOLT TV, NPR Atlanta, FOX and more. He authored his memoir Better, Not Bitter and is the co-author of Punching the Air. 

An avid activist, Yusef is also a board member of the Innocence Project, founding member of Justice 4 the Wrongfully Incarcerated, and 25-year member of the Frederick E. Samuel Community Democratic Club.

Dr. St. Jean Jeudy

Dr. St. Jean Jeudy has an extensive educational and professional background, marked by significant accomplishments in both forensic science and social advocacy. He earned his PhD and a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) from Walden University, complementing his earlier academic achievement of a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. His career includes a notable period as a Forensic Criminalist at the Forensic Science Department of New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner, where he applied his expertise in scientific analysis to support the legal process.

Beyond his scientific career, Dr. Jeudy is deeply committed to social causes, demonstrated by his role as the Founder, President, and CEO of the Social Empowerment Shelter Services. This organization is dedicated to addressing and supporting the needs of marginalized populations. Dr. Jeudy's scholarly work reflects his commitment to social justice, particularly his publication that explores the profound psychosocial consequences experienced by children left behind due to the wrongful convictions of their parents. Through his diverse professional endeavors, Dr. Jeudy continues to make a significant impact across both forensic science and social advocacy domains.


Marina Sorochinski is an interdisciplinary scholar with a Master’s in Forensic Psychology and a PhD in Psychology & Law from CUNY. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at St. John’s University, New York. Dr. Sorochinski’s research in the realm of wrongful convictions is twofold: firstly, it explores the investigative issues and procedural challenges that lead to wrongful convictions, particularly in cases involving serial violent crimes. Secondly, her research addresses the profound impact these wrongful convictions have on the families of the accused, examining the emotional, social, and economic hardships they endure, which persist even after the convictions are overturned.

Beyond her scholarly work, Dr. Sorochinski is a passionate advocate and activist in the innocence movement. She actively teaches and raises awareness among her students and the wider community about the critical need for criminal justice reform and the importance of ensuring justice and support for those wrongfully convicted. Her dedication to research, education, and advocacy highlights her significant contributions to both her academic field and the broader community, fostering a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding wrongful convictions and their profound effects on all involved.