One of my favorite justice-serving organizations, The Innocence Project, is celebrating its annual Wrongful Conviction Day– a day to raise awareness about and remember the thousands of innocent people locked in cells across America. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, at least 2,500 incarcerated people have been exonerated of their crimes since 1989 for a total of more than 22,094 years lost in the system. The Innocence Project Network has exonerated over 513 people since its founding and 63% of those individuals were people of color, who are disproportionately charged, sentenced, and locked away at a higher rate than white people. The exonerees were incarcerated due to corrupt cops/prosecutors/DAs/judges, false witnesses, forced confessions, junk science, prosecutorial misconduct, lack of lawyer accessibility, and a system that actively works against justice, especially for people of color (Black men and women primarily). It is estimated that 2-10% of people in prison are innocent of their crimes, which amounts to at least 46,000-230,000 people that have done absolutely nothing wrong, but are sitting in cells for decades. Many of these people are forced into solitary confinement and hundreds sit on death row year after year. Not only are their lives ruined while in prison, but they also have next to no resources upon release. When a person is sent to prison, they immediately lose their right to vote and are usually unable to find work as businesses don’t tend to hire those who check yes on the criminal record box. The trauma of having their innocence stripped away also completely deteriorates their mental health, so anxiety and depression easily follow release. On this Wrongful Conviction Day, I hope you’ll stand with me and all of the innocent people sent to prison as we fight for a more just future– one that doesn’t rely on police, jails, and prisons.
If you feel so generous, please donate whatever you can to the Innocence Project here as they support people like Mark Denny who leave prison with nothing to their name and in their pockets. Any amount helps!