Have you heard about the Innocence Project? I first heard mention of it while listening intently to highly anticipated episodes of Serial, a remarkably popular podcast from This American Life. Serial was an in-depth look at whether or not Adnan Syed, a young man serving a life sentence for allegedly killing his high school ex-girlfriend, was actually guilty. The Innocence Project was mentioned multiple times during the first season, which further amplified an already prominent organization into the national spotlight.
Although I’m only just becoming acquainted with the work of this important organization, the Innocence Project has been fighting to reform the American justice system for more than twenty years. It has attracted the support of a diverse array of high-powered individuals, including hedge funder Dan Loeb, feminist author and activist Eve Ensler, and even entertainers and performers like Zooey Deschanel, Yoko Ono, and Stephen Colbert, among many others. Its Board of Directors also includes many influential figures like author John Grisham, and Texas senator Rodney Ellis. Between these active supporters and the many private donations it receives annually, the Innocence Project is more poised than ever to create concrete changes to the justice system in the United States.
The Innocence Project has four guiding goals that encompass its overall mission: to exonerate the innocent, improve the law, create social reform through the courts, and support those who are exonerated of their crimes. Created in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld at Yeshiva University’s School of Law, the Innocence Project was formed to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through advancements in DNA testing.
According to the organization, more than 300 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 18 who served time on death row. In addition to absolving wrongly accused prisoners of their crimes, the Innocence Project’s ongoing work calls attention to the flaws of the justice system, and has helped in leading a national dialogue about the need for both prison and legal reform.
You can learn more about this incredible organization by visiting www.innocenceproject.org.