State Policy Advocate

About the organization

The Innocence Project 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 the wrongly convicted who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. 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. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project’s mission is to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment. To learn more, please visit

Job summary

The State Policy Advocate leads campaigns to change the laws, policies and practices that contribute to the wrongful conviction of innocent people.  A central goal of the Innocence Project is to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustices, and the advocates work state by state to pass laws that address deficiencies in the system that have been identified through the exoneration of innocent people.  Working in legislatures, with law enforcement, local advocacy organizations and other stakeholders, the advocates lobby, build coalitions and create pressure for reform.

The position requires excellent oral communications skills, including the ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders and to translate technical, legal issues into lay terms.  The position requires extensive travel.  The Policy Advocate reports to the Director of Policy and works in close collaboration with key members of the policy staff.

Essential job functions

Policy change

  • Initiate and lead state-level advocacy campaigns, with an emphasis on legislative campaigns
  • Prepare reports, testimony, memos, op-eds and other briefing materials for state-specific campaigns based on analysis and synthesis of research, data and other information
  • Serve as a spokesperson for reform efforts in state campaigns
  • Develop policy messaging, in partnership with the communications team, to accompany communications strategies for state campaigns
  • Identify and cultivate stakeholder partnerships to support state campaigns
  • Facilitate and curate state legislative hearings
  • Provide local partners in multiple states with advice and support from the IP Policy Department on policy initiatives
  • Provide technical assistance to and manage contract lobbyists

Public relations

  • Develop relationships with local/state advocates, stakeholders & policymaker staff
  • Facilitate and represent the organization at symposia, trainings, legislative hearings, and state-level task forces
  • Spark interest in the need for innocence reforms

Relationship building

  • Build  allies at the state level in service of the policy work
  • Support  organizational participation in specified coalitions and/or task forces
  • Engage local partners and create in-state coalitions
  • Cultivate champions for reform among influential lawmakers, law enforcement leaders, and other criminal justice stakeholders in state and local government

Qualifications & Experience

  • A baccalaureate degree required; an advanced degree in policy or law preferred, but equivalent professional experience also suitable.
  • A minimum of 2 years of direct political advocacy experience, with a preference given to individuals with experience working in state legislatures and/or in criminal justice or social justice
  • Experience building, leading and/or motivating the productive work of coalitions
  • Experience navigating the legislative process, either as a legislative staffer or through significant legislative advocacy experience
  • Experience working with a broad range of criminal justice stakeholders

Key competencies (skills, abilities and traits)

  • Skills and motivation to interact effectively with a wide variety of people of diverse professional and cultural backgrounds and political views, including Innocence Policy Network members, exonerated men and women, local advocates, politicians, law enforcement, crime victims, and other criminal justice stakeholders, legislators/staffers and attorneys across various states and issues
  • Ability to work collaboratively as an integral part of a multi-disciplinary policy team; sound judgment, a high level of personal and professional confidence and strong interpersonal, diplomatic and communication (written & verbal) skills
  • Social and political savvy
  • Ability to juggle multiple tasks in a high-pressure environment
  • Passion for the Innocence Project’s mission and commitment to criminal justice reform
  • Facility with traditional and social media
  • Ability to travel extensively


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.

Workforce Diversity and Equal Opportunity

The Innocence Project considers the diversity of its workforce to be vital to our organization’s success in meeting its mission.  We strongly encourage applicants from all cultures, races, educational backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, age, gender, and physical abilities to apply.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, it is our policy not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, familial status, marital status, predisposing genetic characteristics, actual or perceived domestic violence victim status, unemployment status, caregiver status, or any other category protected by law.

Application Instructions

To apply, please visit Paycom. Information submitted through this secure site is kept confidential. Due to the large volume of applications, we are unable to give applicant updates by phone.

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