10 Things Anyone Can Do To Help Exonerate Innocent People and Prevent Wrongful Convictions
1. Get connected to stay informed and take action
Join the Innocence Project’s online community to receive regular updates, action alerts, in-depth news and analysis, and other information. Registration is free. Click here to join. Once you register, you can e-mail your friends, family and colleagues to ask them to sign up, too.
2. Donate to the Innocence Project
The Innocence Project is a nonprofit organization that relies on financial support from individuals and foundations. Your donation will help pay for DNA tests, provide staffing for case intake and litigation, support our reform initiatives nationwide, and help educate the public. Click to donate online or by mail.
3. Build relationships with elected representatives
Call or meet with your state and federal representatives well before the legislative session starts and discuss your concerns. By simply introducing yourself to your legislators and their staff before the session starts and providing a brief overview of innocence-related policy concerns, you can establish useful relationships with them and help them see the value of supporting legislation that would protect the innocent. When the session starts, they may reach out to you or take your call because they know you’re actively involved in these issues. For more information and practical tips, see “How to Talk About Innocence-Related Issues with Elected Officials, Organizations, Media, and Others.”
4. Connect with a local Innocence Network organization
Three dozen organizations around the country belong to the Innocence Network, and many of them work on these issues at the state and local levels. You may be able to help with their policy reform efforts, their community outreach, or other aspects of their work – in a professional capacity or as a volunteer. To find a local Innocence Network contact, go to www.innocencenetwork.org.
5. Reach out to the media
When a local or national media outlet runs a story about an exoneration or the causes of wrongful convictions, call or write to the reporter to say you are pleased to see the coverage and interested in seeing additional stories on these issues. Share your perspective and thoughts about why wrongful convictions must be discussed and addressed. Write letters to the editor in response to articles or editorials so that the media – and policymakers who are in a position to help prevent wrongful convictions — know that the public is concerned about these issues. For more information and practical tips, see “How to Talk About Innocence-Related Issues with Elected Officials, Organizations, Media, and Others.”
6. Become more knowledgeable about wrongful convictions – and spread the word
There are scores of books, films, television specials and other resources that can deepen people’s understanding of the causes of wrongful convictions, the need for reform, the challenges people face after exoneration and other issues. Spend some time learning more about the issues, and then share books or films with your friends, coworkers or community members (some of them are great gifts!). View a list of list of films and TV specials on the issues surrounding wrongful convictions and view our recommended reading list.
7. Engage allies in addressing wrongful convictions
Everyone is impacted by wrongful convictions, but some individuals and groups aren’t yet involved in preventing injustice. Ask your friends, colleagues and community organizations to get involved when policy reforms are being discussed; encourage them to join the Innocence Project’s online community. Offer to speak about wrongful convictions at a local Rotary, Kiwanis, or similar civic groups’ meeting. You can address the group yourself, or you can ask a local Innocence Network representative or professor to speak. During the speech, encourage people to become more actively involved in these issues.
8. Work with prisoners and their families in your community
Many exonerees and their families talk about how isolated and ignored prisoners feel. Find a local group that works with prisoners and volunteer to get involved however you’re needed – whether it’s helping in a prison organization’s office or providing support to prisoners and their families. For links to organizations providing a range of services, go to http://prisonactivist.org/links/. For information to share with prisoners (or their families) seeking to contact the Innocence Project about a case, click here.
9. Learn about local procedures and help improve them
Many of the causes of wrongful convictions are decided locally. For example, policies and procedures about conducting lineups and recording interrogations are often set by city and county agencies. As a concerned community member, you have the right to know what the local practices are. Contact the city police, county sheriff and/or other local agencies to find out what they’re currently doing and what the process is for evaluating and revising their policies. If their procedures and policies are not adequate for preventing wrongful convictions, urge decision-makers to change them and reach out to Innocence Network groups to let them know what you’ve learned. For more information and practical tips, see “How to Learn About Local Law Enforcement Procedures and Help Improve Them.”
10. Host a local fundraising and educational event
You, your friends or a group you belong to can organize an event to raise money for the Innocence Project and educate people about wrongful convictions. Some people hold small house parties for six people, while others organize events for 100. Whatever you can do will help spread the word and support our work. Click here to get started on holding an event.