Innocence Project: Hope for the Wrongfully Convicted

Sarah Buttle

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Innocence Project: Hope for the Wrongfully Convicted

U.S Prisons: Injustice is Served










Did you know that on average 2,000 innocent defendants are sentenced to prison each year in the U.S.The Innocence Project was set up by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufield in 1992 to bring justice to those wrongfully accused.

The Innocence Project is a public organisation dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. After much consideration in the past year it was renamed the Justice Brandeis law project.

“The Innocence Project itself is working on anything between 6000 and 8000 cases that come through, but actively they only have about 300 cases. They get letters every day from people,” said Anne Driscoll, Senior Reporter for the Justice Brandeis Innocence Project at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.

 2.3 million people in prison, U.S. has the highest level of incarceration in the world

What is also quite shocking is that one in every 32 American adults are on probation, parole or in prison.

The states and the federal government spend on average $74 billion a year with nearly 800,000 people working in this sector. If you compare the U.S. to the rest of the world, it hosts upward of 20% of the world’s prisoners. The National Debt of the U.S still continues to increase an average of $2.65 billion per day since September 2012. Concerned?

There is a very simple solution to reduce these staggering statistics, and that is where the Innocence Project plays a part also.

The original Innocence Project was started, as in 1989 the courts in the states started using DNA as a forensic evidence. It was clear that DNA could not only prove that somebody was guilty but also innocent! It became clear that we had many people imprisoned who were wrongfully convicted,” said Anne Driscoll.

In 2007, an estimated $74 billion was spent on corrections

The total number of inmates in 2007 in federal state and local lockups was 2,419,241. That works out at an expenditure of $30,600 per inmate a year. On average, 2,000 innocent defendants are sentenced to prison each year. This is due to factors including; withholding or destruction of evidence by police or prosecution, biased editing of evidence, faulty forensic tests and prejudice towards the class of people to which the defendant belongs.

The list is endless. As I spoke to Anne Driscoll the evidence put in front of me was quite distressing. I asked Anne how important the role of the jury is in court.

“The jury can only work with the evidence at hand. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences viewed all the forensic science and evidence that was used routinely in courts. They found that most of it was junk science. What is shocking is that there have been people put to death based on this type of evidence,” said Anne Driscoll.

If the miscarriages of justice were investigated and implications were put into place, the number of prisoners in the U.S. would dramatically decrease, as wrongfully accused defendants would be given a fair trial and an in-depth appeal. Although justice is served when exonerees are set free, closure is never found.

“The victim’s are robbed of closure, because they believe that somebody has been held accountable for this crime,” said Anne Driscoll.

Although America pledges to the Roman goddess of justice, Lady Justice herself, the U.S. must cut the comedy. We must take a step back to critique the system they have in motion. Eradicate these injustice’s and radical change will occur. This will benefit the wrongly convicted and the U.S. $61,200,000 could be saved a year.

Griffith College Dublin: Involvement in Irish Innocence Project since ’09

Members of the Griffith College law faculty began work on the Irish Innocence Project in 2009. This is the first initiative of its kind in Ireland. It was led by David Langwallner, B.A., LL.M (Harvard), BL, Dean of Law at Griffith College. The launch was by Dr. Greg Hampikian, director of the Idaho Innocence Project and DNA expert for the Georgia Innocence Project.

The Irish Innocence Project joins similar projects in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The Project will enable a group of students from law faculties to par-take in a post-conviction review of a case.

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Sarah Buttle

Mental Health Youth Advisers for the Milestone Study