Local Event: National Experts on Innocent People in Prison

In the past two decades, DNA tests have freed more than 240 innocent people from U.S. prisons. Together, they served over 3,000 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit. This is the subject of a free public event on March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in South Hadley, Massachusetts, near Holyoke.

The speakers will be Betty Anne Waters and Maddy deLone. DeLone is director of the Innocence Project, a non-profit group that has helped get innocent people out of jail. Waters got her own brother out of jail.

Ken Waters spent 22 years in a Massachusetts prison for murder before he was declared innocent and freed in 2001. It’s likely that Ken Waters never would have been set free if not for the work of his sister, Betty Anne Waters. A single-mother, she worked at a restaurant to pay her way through law school. Using DNA, she was able to persuade a judge to release her brother from jail. When he saw the evidence Betty Ann Waters had found, even the prosecutor agreed her brother should be set free.

“It was a nightmare,” Betty Anne Waters told The Valley Post. “It’s very hard to put into words what it’s like for everybody concerned – not just my brother; you can’t imagine what he went through for 20 years – but for the whole family, knowing that he was there and innocent. You have to live it to know it. And there are a lot of people that have lived it. We were fortunate because there was evidence to be tested. There are a lot of people (in prison) who are innocent but they don’t have the evidence to help them.”

Betty Ann Waters said the only way she could talk to her brother on the phone when he was in prison was for him to call her collect. For 20 years she often had phone bills of $200 a month.

It took all day for her to drive from her home to the prison and back to visit her brother.

Ken Water was penniless when he died at age 48, less than a year after he was released from prison.

According to the Innocence Project, an average of about one prisoner per year for the past 22 years has had their convictions overturned and been released from a Massachusetts prison. In some cases, the real criminal came forward and confessed. In others, DNA is used to prove innocence.

Malik Russell is a spokesman for the Justice Policy Institute in Washington. He said there are currently between 10,000 and 200,000 innocent people in prison in the United States. Russell said the higher number is from a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Dwyer.

The event will be in the Gamble Auditorium in the Art Building at Mount Holyoke College, 50 College Street in South Hadley. More information is available by calling (413) 538-2000 and at:




i was fortune to meet ken in warick after his release from prision ,my sister and i took him to breakfast at bicfords on jefferson ,he was all over the news at the time and a lil skiddish about people aproching him ,we talked about the future .montel ,oprah and a up comming lifetime movie ,i was intreaged by him and hung on every word ,we returned to our home and talked more .he seemed much more at ease in a controled enveriment thats the institunalilze ken thats what he knew,i anm a better man and have a broader view of my short time friend ken .a victom of justice ,for 20+ years ,then put on the streets with the promise of fame ,what would you expect ,after being in a cage with all the resentment a man can muster,rest in peace my friend

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