“It is not until you have experienced injustice that you can have a true appreciation for justice,” said Jarrett Adams, who at the age of 17 was wrongfully convicted of a crime that he did not commit. Jarrett was sentenced to 28 years in a maximum-security prison after he was falsely accused of sexual assault. While incarcerated, he began to research the legal system. In 2007, after serving nearly 10 years, and filing multiple appeals, Jarrett was exonerated with the assistance of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.
The injustice Jarrett endured fueled his desire to become an advocate for the underserved. He remarked, “I found myself a 26-year-old man with no money, no credit, no health insurance, and no education. A month after my release, I got off of my mother’s couch, walked to South Suburban College (SSC) and enrolled in my first courses.”
Jarrett earned an Associate of Arts degree from SSC in 2009. Soon after, he received the 2012 Chicago Bar Foundation’s Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Scholarship, which is awarded to one law student attending one of nine Illinois law schools who intends to pursue a career in public interest law. Jarrett then achieved a Juris Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in May of 2015.
After passing the New York Bar Exam, Jarrett joined the Wisconsin Innocence Project litigation group as their first Post-Conviction Litigation Fellow in July of 2016. He worked alongside Staff Attorney Bryce Benjet, earning a victory for Richard Beranek, who was wrongfully convicted and serving a life sentence for a crime committed in 1990.
Jarrett is a key participant in many wrongful conviction exoneration victories. He stated, “When faced with adversity, we must struggle, strive, sustain, survive and thrive.” In 2017, he launched The Law Offices of Jarrett Adams, PLLC and currently addresses the needs of clients in Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI, and New York, NY. His areas of practice include criminal defense, civil rights litigation, wrongful conviction, and civil litigation.
In addition to practicing law in both federal and state courts throughout the country, Jarrett is co-founder and president of Life After Justice, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to empowering exonerees to thrive while reclaiming their lives. He advocates for economic justice and establishes a post-exoneration empowerment environment focused on mental health and wellness support.
In September of 2021, Jarrett released his story in an autobiography titled, Redeeming Justice: From Defendant to Defender, My Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System. John Grisham, a writer, attorney, and politician whose legal thrillers often top best-seller lists, called Jarrett’s book, “Nothing less than heroic.” While Scott Turow, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Presumed Innocent remarked, “In a moving and beautifully crafted memoir, without hyperbole or rants, Jarrett Adams compellingly demonstrates the institutionalized racism of the American criminal justice system. When you finish, you will be grasped by two emotions: unbounded admiration for the author, and a need to scream, ‘We must do something’.”
The remarkable story of redemption featuring this successful attorney has captured both local and national media attention. Jarrett is a sought-after social justice advocate and motivational speaker for educational institutions, corporations, and non-profits. He has attended events at his former institutions of higher education to share his experience, providing inspirational stories to students and educators alike. In April of 2016, Jarrett was a guest speaker at the South Suburban College Foundation scholarship gala where he told a captivated room of donors, “I am your dividend.” He returned to SSC in May of 2017 as the keynote speaker of the 89th annual Commencement Ceremony, widely regarded as one of the most inspiring speeches in college history.
“As I look back on my pathway, I can undoubtedly say that SSC was a necessary tool to find success in my career,” Jarrett concluded. “My journey toward helping others avoid what happened to me would have never began had it not been for higher education. I am proof that every dollar donated, every second of support for South Suburban’s students can pave the way for future leaders, change agents, and individuals who have the potential for greatness if provided the opportunity and supplemental resources along their educational journey.”