Over the last twenty years, the Innocence Project has earned its chance to continue as a leading force in the important work of criminal justice reform. Eight and a half years ago, when I began as Executive Director, we had ten staff and a plan to create a consistent, effective national organization for freeing the innocent and challenging the system that falsely imprisoned them. That was a very difficult task. With the help of our many supporters and a growing staff, we pulled it off.
We begin our 21st year with new resources already committed to dramatically expand the focus and impact of the Innocence Project. Over the next five years, we plan to achieve significant advances in our policy efforts and to add a new strategic litigation effort to strengthen our ability to support reforms that will make the American criminal justice system more fair and just.
|“The Innocence Project envisions a criminal justice system that is based on scientific and empirical evidence – not politics, race or net worth.”|
We’re expanding our state-based advocacy to target three major areas in need of reform: making eyewitness identification more reliable, recording interrogations and ensuring robust access to DNA analysis and databases. If the majority of states adopt reforms in these three areas, we can bring the criminal justice system to a tipping point, after which the Innocence Project’s recommendations become the national norm. The Innocence Project has grown along with the Innocence Network, a potent effort of more than 60 independent projects throughout the United States and the world committed to criminal justice reform. Our experience to date, a rigorous planning process, and the expanded reach of the Innocence Network give us the confidence to set such an ambitious goal.
At the same time, we’re working to establish a Strategic Litigation Unit to engage the courts in mandating reforms. Litigation has always been critical to our success – the DNA exonerations have taught us much. With the new unit, our lawyers will bring impact litigation to accelerate reform through precedent-setting court rulings. Our first efforts will target forensic science, aiming to eliminate unvalidated and unreliable forensic evidence from courtrooms and in changing systemic approaches to eyewitness idenfication.
The Innocence Project envisions a criminal justice system that is based on scientific and empirical evidence – not politics, race or net worth. We’ve been planning carefully for the work that lies ahead in order to achieve this vision. In the words of our Co-Director Barry Scheck (see “In Their Own Words,”): “We have a real solid basis for believing that the biggest changes and the most transformative events are ahead of us.” We thank all of our supporters, clients and staff for joining us in our next exciting phase of growth.