The Innocence Project (IP) was founded in 1992 to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. Since 1989, post-conviction DNA testing of forensic evidence has exonerated hundreds of wrongfully convicted people in the United States, including people who were sentenced to death and who pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit. The Innocence Project was either the attorney-of-record or assisted in 172 of these cases.
The Innocence Project’s pioneering use of DNA testing to free innocent people has provided irrefutable scientific proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but instead the result of identifiable systemic flaws. Eyewitness misidentifications are the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions, having played a role in 75 percent of those overturned by DNA testing.
2020 grants from the Cultures of Resistance Network supported the Exoneree Fund, which provides financial support to ease clients’ adjustments to life after incarceration, and the policy program, which passes laws throughout the United State to prevent future wrongful convictions.
A 2014 grant from the Cultures of Resistance Network supported the Exoneree Fund, created in 2005. For many exonerees, the first challenge after release is to pay for their own basic expenses as they move forward with life after wrongful incarceration. The Exoneree Fund provides assistance to clients during their first year after being released, in order to meet their basic needs, ensure stability, and encourage independence as they rebuild their lives.
A 2011 grant from the Cultures of Resistance Network supported the work of the Innocence Project’s Eyewitness Identification Litigation Fellow, an attorney who advocates for science-based reforms to eyewitness identification methods nationwide.
In addition to support from the Cultures of Resistance Network, director iara lee arranged an outside grant for the Innocence Project in 2022, which supported the Policy Program. The Policy Program works with Congress, state legislatures, and local leaders to pass laws and policies that prevent wrongful convictions and make it easier for the innocent to receive justice.