What Is The Innocence Project

On Wednesday, April 15, Netflix’s highly-anticipated docuseries, The Innocence Files, hits the streaming platform. The new nine-episode true crime documentary series, which explores the stories of eight wrongfully-convicted people imprisoned, is an inside look at the people working to help get those behind bars without evidence freed from prison. Some of the cases featured in the series include those of Chester Hollman III, Kenneth Wyniemo, Levon Brooks, and Alfred Dewayne Brown, who share stories speak to the nature of the U.S. incarceration system, and the advocates fighting for their justice.

The series poignantly spotlights many of the failings that plague our investigative, judicial, and criminal justice systems in America. The causes for wrongful conviction are split into three focuses by The Innocence Project — the organization of lawyers and advocates who field requests from friends, family, and incarcerated people themselves and takes on cases to prove people’s innocence — with the three causes of wrongful conviction being: prosecutorial misconduct, eyewitness misidentification and the use of unreliable or unvalidated forensic science.

The Innocence Project, the organization behind many innocent incarcerated people’s releases, helped free more than 2,500 wrongfully convicted people who have been exonerated in the U.S. over the past three decades. The project was founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, and has continued to exonerate those wrongly convicted for almost thirty years, and continues to push for reforms in the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

But the group’s work is nowhere near over. “Unfortunately, the mentality among too many judges and too many district attorneys is the ends justify the means,” the team’s member said in the trailer for the documentary. “If we find that the client is innocent, we don’t stop until we win.” 

“There are tried and tested reforms that will improve the system to make it more fair and just. Countless innocent people endure unspeakable suffering in maximum security prisons and death row for crimes they didn’t commit. These miscarriages of justice extend a circle of pain and trauma that embraces families, communities, and even victims of crime. We must do better,” the Innocence Project says in a release on its website.

How you can support The Innocence Project

According to the organization, it’s actually fairly simple to be a part of a movement of more than 800,000 supporters who are on a mission to help exonerate innocent people from prison sentences. By putting your name and e-mail address into the “Get Involved” portion of the organization’s site, you’ll be automatically signed up for updates on how you can help prevent wrongful convictions — whether it be calls to action or helping provide resources. You can also donate to the project, and in turn help to fund all the resources needed to get people out of prison. 

The website provides a series of petitions for people to sign, where your signature can help cases advance in the legal system, help lawmakers change policy, and help exonerees get compensation, and more. By joining The Innocence Network, a nationwide network of local groups also working to exonerate and support innocent people, the organization asks participants to help redress the causes of wrongful conviction. 

If you watch the documentary and feel an urge to be an advocate for justice, you can visit the organization’s site to find out even more specific ways you can lend your voice, your money, or your time to the cause.

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