The Innocence Project, . (ip) is a national nonprofit with the mission to free innocent people who have been wrongly convicted and reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The ip has helped exonerate over 200 people, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color and some who were sentenced to death. Cumulatively, they spent thousands of years in prison for crimes they did not commit, and in many cases, the person who actually committed the crime went on to commit others. The ip is dedicated to researching, analyzing and educating stakeholders and the public on the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions and other systemic problems in the system. The ip works to pass laws and prevent the admissibility of non-scientific evidence to prevent future miscarriages of justice. Founded in 1992 as a clinic at cardozo school of law at yeshiva university,the ip incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization in 2004, though it maintains an affiliation with cardozo.
$4.4m annual program spend • Legal services (includes legal, intake and social work): the Innocence Project leverages the fact-finding science of dna testing to expose errors in the criminal justice system and to exonerate people in prison or on death row for crimes they did not commit. To determine which cases we can accept, our steadfast intake team reviews over 2000 letters annually from incarcerated people requesting investigation into their innocence claims. The team then conducts an in depth evaluation of the cases to determine whether dna testing can prove innocence and presents them to our legal team to make a final determination of which cases to accept. Once cases are accepted, our staff attorneys work with cardozo law school clinic students to investigate the cases, to find biological evidence and to gain access to post-conviction testing through agreements or court orders. When dna results prove our clients' innocence, we seek their immediate release. In fiscal year 2018, we exonerated 12 individuals of crimes they did not commit and worked to free many more. To date the Innocence Project has helped free more than 209 people. For each exoneration case, Innocence Project social workers helped clients reunite with their family and friends and provided assistance to secure housing, day-to-day transportation, critical medical or mental health care, and support in finding employment. The Innocence Project represented 190 clients and the social work team worked with 55 former clients during the year ending june 30, 2018.
$1.4m annual program spend • The Innocence Project works with congress, state legislatures and courts, executive agencies, local leaders and law enforcement to pass laws, policies and rules to reveal and prevent wrongful convictions. Our policy priorities reflect the lessons learned from dna exonerations and address the contributors to wrongful convictions, which include: eyewitness misidentification, unvalidated and improper forensic science, false confessions, incentivized witnesses, government misconduct, and inadequate defense. The Innocence Project works to ensure fair access to post-conviction dna testing and preservation of biological evidence for testing, as well as legal mechanisms for innocent people seeking relief through new non-dna evidence. We work to implement police practice reform, from improved identification procedures to the recording of custodial interrogations. The policy department also educates system players about the human factors that affect criminal investigations, from racial and implicit bias to tunnel vision. We also advocate for laws that fairly compensate exonerated people so that they have the financial footing and other support they need and deserve to restart their lives. In the fiscal year ending june 30, 2018, the Innocence Project had 10 legislative victories.
Science and Research
$776k annual program spend • The misapplication of forensic science contributed to almost half of the wrongful convictions that have been cleared through dna testing in the united states. To address this dire issue, the Innocence Project contracts with consultants and lobbyists to urge congress and executive agencies to support research that will validate forensic disciplines and set smart and consistent standards around their use in criminal investigations and in court. We're also working to improve forensic science oversight and review at the state level through establishment of state-based forensic science commissions. In the fiscal year ending june 30, 2018, we responded to requests from the department of justice for comments on various projects, including proposed guidance for uniform standards for testimony and reporting for latent prints. We also participated in the public comment and review process of several standards development organizations working to develop standards relating to forensic science and presented research on topics relating to forensic science, cognitive bias, and wrongful convictions at national forums.