How You Can Help
Simple Things You Can Do To Help Exonerate Innocent People and Prevent Wrongful Convictions
1. Connect with organizations in the Innocence Network
More than 60 organizations around the world 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. View the map and list of Innocence Network member organizations.
2. Donate money to Innocence Network organizations
Most of the Innocence Network organizations are affiliated with universities, but they need donations to help pay for DNA tests, provide staffing for case intake and litigation, support reform initiatives at the local, state or national levels, and help educate the public. To find out how to donate online, over the phone or through the mail, view the map and list of Innocence Network member organizations.
3. Join the Wrongful Convictions blog community
Wrongful Convictions blog covers all issues, wherever they arise in the world, related to wrongful conviction of the innocent. The blog aims to provide a single location on the web where anyone can go daily to find updated news on wrongful convictions and to spark discussion and debate on the issues.
4. 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 books and other reading materials on wrongful convictions and related issues, or a list of films and TV specials.
5. Build relationships with elected representatives
Contact 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. For more information and practical tips, see the Innocence Project’s “How to Talk About Innocence-Related Issues with Elected Officials, Organizations, Media, and Others.”
6. Reach out to the media
When a media outlet runs a story about an exoneration or the causes of wrongful convictions, contact 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 the Innocence Project’s “How to Talk About Innocence-Related Issues with Elected Officials, Organizations, Media, and Others.”
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. 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, download the ACLU’s Prisoner’s Assistance Directory.
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. For more information and practical tips, see the Innocence Project’s “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 an Innocence Network organization 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. To get started, contact the Innocence Network member organization you are interested in working with to see how a fundraising or educational event can help their efforts.