The Innocence Project (IP) was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, more than 300 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 18 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.
The Innocence Project’s full-time staff attorneys and Cardozo clinic students provide direct representation or critical assistance in most of these cases. The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. An independent nonprofit organization for the past 10 years, the Innocence Project is closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. The Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.
The Innocence Project has grown significantly during the past decade and now includes 70 staff, a 16-member Board of Directors, and a budget of approximately $10 million.
The Policy Director leads the Innocence Project’s advocacy agenda to ensure that the criminal justice system is trustworthy and that state and federal law, policy and practice do not compromise the quality of justice and lead to the conviction of innocent people. Our current work in this area includes the reliability of eyewitness identifications, the recording of interrogations to prevent false confessions, improving the scientific foundation of faulty forensics, access to post-conviction DNA testing, and prosecutorial accountability. In the coming years, we plan to expand our work to address other frailties in the criminal justice system that lead to the conviction of the innocent, including systemic issues that induce the
innocent to plead guilty and that undermine the reliability and accuracy of investigations and prosecutions. The Policy Director will draw upon his/her public policy expertise and substantive knowledge of the criminal justice system to strategically collaborate with the IP’s Senior Leaders on how best to evolve our national advocacy and policy agenda; specifically, this person will create strategies to more broadly address the myriad problems that flow from a criminal justice system that is overwhelmed with cases, under-resourced and perversely compromised by the unequal treatment of defendants based on race and socio-economic status.
As the Head of the Policy Department, the Policy Director is responsible for the overall management of a growing Policy department that is currently 11 full-time staff, as well as consultants and federal lobbyists. The Director of Policy is responsible for: a) developing department strategy and goals, b) managing department staff to achieve those goals, c) reporting on progress toward goals to the Innocence Project’s board, funders and staff, d) anticipating and acting on opportunities for growth in the Innocence Projects’ policy work and e) modeling the Innocence Project’s values of an inclusive and respectful workplace and encouraging the same from staff.
The Director of Policy reports to the Deputy Director. This is a full-time position requiring substantial work hours and a significant on-site presence, in addition to occasional overnight travel. The Director of Policy is a member of the senior staff of the Innocence Project, and works closely with the Executive Director and Co-Directors.
ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS:
MANAGE POLICY DEPARTMENT TO ACHIEVE STRATEGIC GOALS
- Set annual departmental goals and track and monitor performance of staff towards achieving goals; enhance opportunities for personal and professional leadership development.
- Provide strategic and management support to the Director of State Advocacy in managing state-based campaigns to reform police practice and law and the Forensic Policy Advocate who coordinates the federal forensic reform agenda.
- Direct federal advocacy strategies on appropriations, federal grant programs, federal research priorities and other Congressional action on wrongful conviction-related issues and manage related lobbyist contracts.
- Maintain a leadership role at the Innocence Project, including regular collaboration with colleagues in other departments to achieve mutual goals and to further communication and cooperation;
- Develop and nurture partnerships with external stakeholders, including police, prosecutors, judges, policymakers and other justice organizations.
- Develop and manage special projects when appropriate.
- Liaise and provide strategic advice and support on policy initiatives to other Innocence Network organizations.
- Develop and monitor annual department budget.
EXPAND AND DEVELOP NEW ADVOCACY AREAS
- In collaboration with senior leaders, create the vision and develop strategies for expanding the IP’s policy agenda to broaden impact on addressing wrongful convictions and the inequities in the criminal justice system.
- Serve as an organizational thought-leader on relevant criminal justice policy issues, and as needed, be a visible spokesperson of the Innocence Project in public forums and meetings.
- Work closely with the IP’s Communications Department to advance policy reform and advocacy efforts by targeting key decision makers and the public.
- Work closely with the IP’s Strategic Litigation Department to ensure a coordinated litigation and advocacy strategy.
QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCE:
- Advanced degree in law or public policy, Juris Doctor preferred.
- Minimum ten years of experience directing successful issue-oriented lobbying and/or advocacy campaigns; ideally in a nonprofit legal organization.
- Minimum seven years of progressive management experience; a successful track record as a unifying team builder who inspires collaboration.
- Proven ability to engage effectively in strategic planning and to set priorities. Ability to think broadly and conceptually.
- Extensive knowledge and experience working with state regulatory and legislative processes.
- Experience using an array of strategies for change, including advocacy, research, policy reform, litigation, and strategic communications; an appreciation of the value of social media for leveraging social justice.
- Deep knowledge of U.S. criminal justice system.
- Experience in grant application and grant management.
- Collegial, collaborative management style and demonstrated commitment to the value and power of teams and staff; ability to delegate and prioritize multiple responsibilities and inspire teams to meet high expectations.
- Ability to work with multidisciplinary staff in a collaborative, productive, and fast-paced work environment.
- Strong relationship builder. Able to work effectively and diplomatically with lawmakers, police officials, judges and partner organizations.
- Excellent analytical skills, particularly as they relate to policy and legislation.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills; a strong public presence.
- Ability to remain organized amidst multiple competing demands
- Passionate commitment to social justice and to the Innocence Project’s goals, mission, and values.
The salary for this position is competitive and the Innocence Project offers an excellent benefits package, including health, dental and vision insurance, Flexible Spending Account, 401k plan with company-match, and paid Transitcheks.
To apply for the position, please submit a substantive cover letter and current resume to:
The Innocence Project is an equal opportunity employer and considers all applications without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age, disability, socio-economic status, marital or veteran status, or sexual orientation.
Lauren I. Gumbs
Gumbs + Partners