DNA exonerations expose the causes of wrongful convictions, and public awareness and citizen participation is essential in the effort to end these injustices. You can help free the innocent and prevent future wrongful convictions by holding an event in your community to educate your friends and colleagues.
Following are suggestions on how to host an Innocence Project House Party. If you are planning to host a house party or have any questions, please email us at [email protected].
Step 1: Invite Your Guests
1. Compile a list of all friends, co-workers and associates in your social network. Focus on expanding your base of supporters and consider inviting three times as many people as you want to attend.
2. You can also ask friends to be co-organizers and encourage them to invite those who they think might be interested, as well.
3. Personally calling your guests to tell them about your party is the best way to ensure a good turnout.
4. For email invitations, use online services like Evite so you can keep track of your RSVPs. Encourage your friends to forward the invitation to their friends.
5. If you are hosting a book party (see below), you’ll want to inform your guests well in advance, so they will have enough time to read the book.
6. Follow up with your guests a few days before the party to remind them of the event and to get an accurate head count.
Step 2: Choose a Film, Book or Speaker
The Innocence Project will gladly work with you to find a speaker. Another way to educate your guests is to show a film at the party or read a book on the subject. Below is a list of films, documentaries, and books you might consider.
If you purchase the books and videos using the Amazon.com links below, a portion of proceeds will support the Innocence Project.
The Innocent Man – John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction tells the story of two men’s wrongful convictions and subsequent exonerations. Mr. Grisham now serves on the Innocence Project’s Board of Directors.
Actual Innocence – Written by Innocence Project Co-Directors Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jim Dwyer. It includes stories of actual cases, combined with broader context on the causes of wrongful convictions and efforts to reform the criminal justice system.
“After Innocence” – The 2005 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize winner (produced by a former Innocence Project clinic student) tells the compelling stories of innocent men wrongfully imprisoned for decades and then exonerated through DNA evidence. The documentary film focuses on the stories of seven men, their lives after exoneration and their efforts to rebuild their lives. Available from Netflix or in most video stores, or for purchase on Amazon.com.
“The Exonerated” – Court-TV’s 2006 film version of the popular play features the stories of six people who were exonerated after being sentenced to death. The cast includes Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Aidan Quinn. Available from Netflix or in most video stores, or for purchase at Amazon.com.
Step 3: The Night of the Party
1. Before your guests arrive, make sure you have a guest sign-in book, contribution forms and pens available near the front door. You can also include information about the Innocence Project which the IP can provide upon request or which can be downloaded from the website. You can also suggest that attendees register online (www.innocenceproject.org) to receive emails and information about Innocence Project successes, related news and upcoming events. Click here to download a sign-in sheet to collect email addresses.
2. Welcome your guests as they arrive and direct them to the sign-in sheets and materials. Encourage them to discuss the materials you provide while you wait for guests to arrive.
3. Towards the end of the evening, shift the dialogue to “what you can do.” Let your guests know that by making a contribution to the Innocence Project tonight, they can immediately begin helping exonerate innocent people and reform the system to prevent injustice.
Step 4: Follow Up
1. Return guest sign-in sheets and contributions to the Innocence Project.
Please mail them to:
40 Worth St.
New York, NY 10013
Or scan and email to: [email protected]
2. Send follow-up emails and thank your guests for attending and contributing. The Innocence Project will also send thank you notes when we receive their information.
3. Keep in touch after the party. Take the opportunity to discuss what everyone can do to help raise awareness about DNA exonerations, wrongful convictions and the mission of the Innocence Project.