Program Strategist, Race and Wrongful Conviction

ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION:

The Innocence Project works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone. Founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the organization is now an independent nonprofit. Our work is guided by science and grounded in antiracism. Since our inception, the Innocence Project has used DNA and other scientific advancements to prove wrongful conviction. To date, we have helped to free or exonerate more than 200 people who, collectively, spent more than 3,600 years behind bars. Our efforts have led to the passage of more than 200 transformative state laws and federal reforms. Today, the Innocence Project continues to fight for freedom, drive structural change, and advance the innocence movement. To learn more, please visit www.innocenceproject.org.

ABOUT THE POSITION:

Throughout the history of this country, racial bias and discrimination has played an arbitrary and pernicious role in the administration of the criminal legal system and contributed to the problem of wrongful conviction. Two-thirds of the 239 people released or exonerated by the Innocence Project are people of color and 58% are Black. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Black people comprise 47% of all known exonerations since 1989, even though they make up just 13% of the U.S. population. Furthermore, Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people; a Black person convicted of sexual assault is 3.5 times more likely to be innocent than a white person convicted of such a crime; and innocent Black people are 12 times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of drug possession than innocent white people. The work of the Innocence Project has uncovered racial (and other) bias in prosecution, policing, indigent defense, and forensic science.

To further advance the mission of the Innocence Project, we now seek a Program Strategist, Race and Wrongful Conviction (Program Strategist) to serve as a thought leader, expert and in-house resource on racial justice, equity, bias and discrimination and its impact on the functioning of the criminal legal system and, particularly, wrongful conviction. The Program Strategist will work with the Innocence Project staff to ensure that the substantive work of the organization is consistently guided, informed, and supported by rigorous historical, academic, forensic and social science research and scholarship, legal decisions, and policies/practices that explain, expose, ameliorate and ultimately eliminate racial bias as a factor in criminal legal system decision making. Thus, for example, the Program Strategist will help to ensure that the Innocence Project’s intake procedures surface cases where racism may have contributed to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person, that litigation strategies take into account the latest law and science on racial bias and discrimination, that our social work policies and practices are informed by the unique challenges posed by discrimination and unconscious bias and that our policy work and education campaigns contribute to dismantling systemic racism.

The Program Strategist will support and advise all Departments, including the program teams, but will not play an active role in litigation or policy advocacy campaigns. The Program Strategist is not responsible for the development of internal diversity, equity and inclusion policies, practices or procedures. The Program Strategist, Race and Wrongful Conviction will report to the Executive Director and will be a member of the Executive Department.

All Innocence Project employees must embrace, respect and value the rich diversity of perspectives and experience of a diverse and heterogeneous staff. We recognize and appreciate that our work is better for having varied participants and thought partners. We are interested in every qualified candidate who is eligible to work in the United States. However, we are not able to sponsor visas.

While the Innocence Project has supported remote work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently committed to a hybrid workplace with mandatory two days per week in-office. All staff are currently provided a private workspace with a closed-door for the time being.

THE IDEAL CANDIDATE: 

The Ideal candidate is a dynamic thought leader and subject matter expert on racial injustice and the intersection of race, civil rights, and criminal justice and wrongful conviction. The ideal candidate will have experience and passion around teaching, training, and/or disseminating research on these topics to broad audiences.

ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS: 

  • Provide ongoing expertise, thought leadership, and strategic vision on the role of racial bias and discrimination in the administration of the criminal legal system and the ways in which it contributes to the wrongful conviction of innocent people.
  • Build and maintain strong and effective relationships with organizations, academics, researchers, attorneys, organizers, policy advocates and other experts that specialize in the operation of racial bias and discrimination in the criminal legal system and decision making.
  • Continuously monitor state and federal court decisions addressing novel and/or significant claims of racial bias and discrimination in (and relating to) criminal justice and the wrongful conviction of innocent people.
  • Continuously monitor emerging legal, historical, forensic and social science research and scholarship, and policy landscape regarding the impact of racial bias on decision making especially as applied to the criminal legal system and the wrongful conviction of innocent people.
  • Provide regular verbal and written updates, trainings and resources to Innocence Project staff regarding relevant research.
  • Produce lay and academic publications to disseminate original research.
  • Collaborate with Departments and teams on cases, campaigns and strategies involving race, racial bias/discrimination and wrongful conviction.
  • Attend relevant trainings, conferences and convenings regarding the ways in which racial bias and discrimination in the criminal legal system contributes to the wrongful conviction of innocent people, bring these learnings into the IP’s work and position IP as a participant in and contributor to these larger conversations.

QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCE:

  • A graduate degree in a relevant field (JD, Masters or PhD) is preferred.
  • 7+ years of progressive responsibility in academia, policy advocacy and/or litigation in areas at the
    intersection of racial justice, civil rights and criminal justice.
  • A sophisticated analysis and knowledge of racial injustice in America, its history and manifestations,
    and efforts to address it.
  • Demonstrated history of collaboration with communities of color on race, criminal justice and civil
    rights.
  • Demonstrated project and time management skill, including organization, attention to detail, and
    follow-through.
  • Demonstrated experience in creative problem solving, strategic flexibility, and good judgment.
  • Experience with strategic planning.
  • Willingness to travel as necessary for speaking events, meetings, and conferences.
  • Must be legally authorized to work in the U.S.

KEY COMPETENCIES:

  • Must be able to work in a diverse workplace in respectful, equitable, and inclusive ways.
  • Enthusiasm for the work of the Innocence Project and for social justice, including a demonstrated commitment to public interest.
  • Shares values of equity, excellence, collaboration, humanity, integrity, respect, and accountability.
  • Subject matter expertise in racial injustice and the intersections between criminal justice, civil rights and race.
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills, and the ability to effectively communicate complex issues to diverse audiences.
  • Excellent research and analytical skills.

COMPENSATION, BENEFITS, AND PERKS:

The salary for this position is highly competitive, and the Innocence Project offers an excellent benefits package, including health, dental and vision insurance, Flexible Spending Account, 401k plan with company-match.  The office is currently operating on a hybrid schedule (partly remote, partly in office). While on this hybrid schedule, the Innocence Project provides company-paid transportation benefits.

WORKFORCE DIVERSITY AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYMENT: 

The Innocence Project considers the diversity of its workforce to be vital to our organization’s success in meeting its mission. We strongly encourage applicants from all cultures, races, educational backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, age, gender, and physical abilities to apply. Individuals with personal connections to the criminal legal system are strongly encouraged to apply.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, it is our policy not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, familial status, marital status, predisposing genetic characteristics, actual or perceived domestic violence victim status, unemployment status, caregiver status, or any other category protected by law. 

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:

Please upload a cover letter expressing your interest in the role and the organization’s work, and a resume titled with your name (last name. first name. cover letter/resume). Only applications with cover letters will be considered complete applications. Information submitted through this secure site is kept confidential. Due to the large volume of applications, we are unable to give applicant updates by phone or direct email.

APPLY HERE.

**Applications for this position will be considered on a rolling basis until the post is filled.** 

LOCATION:  New York City 

SALARY RANGE: $95,625 – $130,000

*Applicants with PhD/JD and/or advanced experience are eligible for additional compensation.

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