The Innocence Project's Policy department works in Congress, state Legislatures and with local elected officials and policy makers to pass legislation and administrative policies that prevent wrongful convictions and make it easier for the innocent to receive justice.
Improving fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system benefits all segments of society. Victims and their families can see justice; prosecutors and police can have the tools to do their jobs well; the public can have more confidence in the system; and innocent people and their families can avoid the tragedy of wrongful convictions.
The Innocence Project’s priorities for reforming the criminal justice system reflect the lessons that have been learned from DNA exonerations over the last 19 years. These priorities also reflect the need to address fundamental shortcomings in the criminal justice system while implementing specific reforms to law enforcement procedures. All of the reforms that the Innocence Project and its partners advocate have been proven to increase the accuracy of the criminal justice system, often through decades of scientific research.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin held a ceremony June 17th to sign into law recently passed reforms that will help prevent wrongful convictions. Senate bill 184 requires the blind administration of photo line-ups in order to prevent misidentifications and electronic recording of interrogations for violent crimes in order to prevent false confessions. The bill was passed by both houses on May 6th and most provisions went into effect immediately.
Legislation to expand Illinois’ postconviction DNA testing access law to inmates that have pleaded guilty was signed by the governor this year. The bill, which was approved by large margins in the Senate and the House, acknowledged that innocent defendants sometimes plead guilty to avoid a severe punishment.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill that will increase the amount of compensation that wrongfully convicted people can receive from the state for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned. Under the new law, exonerated individuals in New Jersey will be eligible to receive statutory damages in the amount of $50,000 for each year they were in prison. Previously, they received either a max of $20,000 or twice that of their annual pre-conviction income for each year served.