By Karen Chaney
Sarah Simon, a 2017 Greenhill School graduate, has taken up the cause of the wrongfully convicted.
To that end, the daughter of Old Preston Hollow residents Dr. Stuart and Stacy Simon partnered with University of Pennsylvania classmates Carson Eckhard and Natalia Rommen to establish Project HOPE.
Project HOPE supports the day-to-day casework of The Liberation Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Philadelphia exoneree Terrance Lewis in 2020.
The foundation connects incarcerated Pennsylvanians with innocence, wrongful conviction, or disproportionate sentence claims to pro bono appeals attorneys.
“We provide the necessary high-level paralegal and investigative support to these cases, significantly lowering the barrier to entry for attorneys who wish to become involved in this important work,” Simon said.
Project HOPE also offers a comprehensive, community-led reentry preparation program.
“The program is 16 weeks long and comprises a range of expert speakers who discuss vital components of the reentry process such as financial literacy, job searching, education, and finding mentors,” Simon said.
A press release from Penn provided a summary of the inaugural year:
“In the year since it got underway and backed by support from Penn’s 2021 President’s Engagement Prize, the project has helped free Jehmar Gladden, who spent more than 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and graduated the first cohort of inmates from an innovative reentry program piloted at a state correctional institution.”
Simon said receiving the President’s Engagement Prize was invaluable.
Simon credited her family, Greenhill teachers, Gary Udashen from The Innocence Project, and Harry Ingram from the Dallas County Public Defender’s office for influencing and molding her. Knowing she wanted to pursue a career in human rights law, she chose to attend Penn because of the Criminology and Political Science Departments.
She graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in May 2021 with a double major in criminology and political science-international relations.
Her plans include law school. Then, hopefully in five years, she will be a practicing attorney and involved in the work of The Liberation Foundation and Project HOPE.
Her advice to those interested in doing similar work: “Connect with those who have lived experience, take their lead, and embed yourself in the criminal justice community and join the fight with so many others who are dedicated to a more just future for us all.”