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The Innocence Project

The Innocence Project

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Published by Kathy Emery
Research and analysis of The Innocence Project from the point of view of the Southern Freedom Movement
Research and analysis of The Innocence Project from the point of view of the Southern Freedom Movement

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Kathy Emery on Jun 06, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 And Justice For All?How Groups Committed to Social Justice Can Change the WorldDanielle Niemi and William StandardPLSI 386/CST 300Professor EmeryMay 18, 2011
 Niemi/Standard 2The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man—convicted of a crime Idid not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. FromGod’s dust I came and to dust I will return—so the earth shall become my throne.- Cameron Todd Willingham’s last words prior to his execution
 It is an axiom of the United States justice system that “people are innocent untilthey are proven, by competent evidence, to be guilty.”
If someone is proven to be guiltyof the crime(s) they were accused of, then it is safe to assume that they are indeed guilty because a fair and impartial judicial process secured their conviction. If you are guilty of a crime, then you must do the time because the tenets of justice dictate that the guiltymust repay their debt to society. That all seems fair enough but what is one to think aboutinnocent people in prison repaying a debt to society that they never incurred in the first place? Can one conceive of innocent Americans rotting away in prison cells, constantlyon their tiptoes trying to avoid being beaten, raped, and/or murdered? Unfortunately, it isa common occurrence because “it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are a policeofficer, or a United States Marine … it can happen to anybody.”
For the countless menand women in prison for crimes they did not commit, there is hope: the InnocenceProject. Since 1992 the Innocence Project has led the battle against injustice by usingDNA evidence to exonerate persons incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Their objective “is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people whoremain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.”
Because the Innocence Project is an organization working for social justice, their success rests in how effective and efficient their strategy is.The Innocence Project has inspired the creation of other Innocence Projects that
 Niemi/Standard 3all work together to free wrongfully convicted people from prison. This collaboration is,in a sense, a movement. The last great social movement that the United States saw wasthe Southern Freedom Movement. For the Southern Freedom Movement to survive for aslong as it did with as many people involvedas were involved is no small feat. TheSouthern Freedom Movement is an anomaly of modern times and very inspiring for other movements because it proves that people united can make a difference. The InnocenceProject’s efforts to date mirror the efforts of the Southern Freedom Movement but theformer still has a steep uphill mountain of bureaucracy to wade through in order tofundamentally reform the U.S. justice system. Having survived for nineteen years andcounting, “what started off as a small … mom and pop operation has now mushroomedinto a kind of … new civil rights movement in this country. It’s not just aboutexonerating the innocent; It’s also about reforming all of criminal justice.”
Using theSouthern Freedom Movement as a comparison study, the aforementioned quote will be put to the test to determine how the Innocence Project’s successes in the past and their efforts in the present will bring about the reform of the U.S. criminal justice system.This essay will provide a critical analysis of the Innocence Project based on our understanding of how fundamental social change happens as developed from our study of the Southern Freedom Movement. Using the Southern Freedom Movement as anexemplary model for how movements for social change emerge and develop, we willexamine the Innocence Project’s infrastructure, coalitions, use of the arts, research andclear identification of the problem, use of non-violent resistance, development of localleadership, handling of contradictions within the movement, personal relationship andcommunity building, and to what extent they are operating in the right historical moment.

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