Wednesday, March 4, 2009
DENNIS FRITZ SPEAKS TO MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
Dennis Fritz, one of the two main characters in John Grisham’s book, The Innocent Man and author of "Journey Toward Justice", traveled to Duluth, Minnesota, to speak to the state’s Department of Corrections on October 31, 2008. Dan Raden, a guard for the Department of Corrections invited Mr. Fritz, to speak to correction officials at a yearly-held conference in Duluth, Mn.
A gala rally was held the night before the event at a local establishment in Duluth. Over a hundred plus correctional attendees crowded into the jam packed confines of the two story structure. Guards, counselors, case managers, and up, were emotionally fit for the evening’s excitement.
After a lot of hard work over the past year, it was now time for the correctional people to have some fun. Hilarious jokes and spilling-over laughter created a roar of emotion as the evening progressed.
Of course, this was the very first time that Mr. Fritz had mingled on a personal level with Department of Correction officers and staff. After having spent 12 years in an Oklahoma prison for 1st Degree Capital Murder, Mr. Fritz was now enjoying himself while getting to know the various levels of prison personal.
At first, Mr. Fritz was a little slow in opening up to the people, who at one time, had held him behind bars for a crime that he did not commit.
The next day, after a rather short night’s sleep, Mr. Fritz took the podium and told his very gruesome story of being falsely convicted of a life sentence that was spent in a very harsh prison environment. All ears and eyes were focused upon him as he described his painful circumstances from his arrest onward. Now, the tables had turned.
The correction people were captivated, while learning from Mr. Fritz’s descriptions, as to his roller-coaster ride out of hell. After speaking, the audience asked many questions concerning their own prison experiences. It was a day of great interactions between Mr. Fritz and the D.O.C. people. It resulted in a most productive learning experience after having heard the flip sides from two different perspectives.
Mr. Fritz had accomplished his mission—to bring about that always needed, much greater awareness of the impact of how false convictions can destroy, not only the person’s life, but also, the moral fabric of society as a whole.