Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Innocence Project? How did it get started?
Founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.
What is the Innocence Project's relationship with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law?
The Innocence Project was founded at Cardozo School of Law and housed there until becoming an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2004. The Innocence Project is still affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. Each year law students from the school participate in Innocence Clinic, providing critical help in our efforts to exonerate the wrongly convicted.
How many innocent people are there in prison?
We will never know for sure, but the few studies that have been done estimate that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the U.S. are innocent (for context, if just 1% of all prisoners are innocent, that would mean that more than 20,000 innocent people are in prison).
How can someone ask the Innocence Project to get involved in a case?
The Innocence Project is not equipped to handle case applications or inquiries by email or over the phone. All case submissions and follow-up correspondence will be handled by mail or overnight delivery services only. Click the here for further instructions.
How do you decide who to represent?
We gather extensive information about each case application. Our intake and evaluation staff then researches each potential case thoroughly, sharing findings with our legal staff. Together, the combined teams ultimately determine whether DNA testing can be conducted, and if so, whether favorable results can prove innocence.
In addition to our co-directors and a managing attorney, the Innocence Project has six full-time staff attorneys and nearly 300 active cases.
Every year, approximately 2,400 people write to us for the first time asking for help, and at any given time we are evaluating between 6,000 and 8,000 potential cases.
How is the Innocence Project funded?
We receive 44% of our funding from individuals, 31% from foundations, 12% from our annual benefit dinner, 3% from the Cardozo School of Law, and most of the rest from corporations. Nearly 80% of the funds we receive go directly to the Innocence Project’s programs to free and protect the innocent and to prevent wrongful convictions.
What is the relationship between the Innocence Project and other organizations doing similar work?
The Innocence Project is a founding member (along with several longtime partners) of the Innocence Network, an affiliation of independent organizations working to overturn wrongful convictions and improve the criminal justice system.
Are you affiliated with the American Innocence Project?
No, the Innocence Project is not affiliated with an organization operating under the name “American Innocence Project,” and the American Innocence Project does not have authorization to solicit funds under the Innocence Project name. If you have been contacted by this group or a similar organization, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I go for help if Innocence Project can't take my case?
Find the Innocence Network organization in the state where the crime occurred, and they may be able to assist incarcerated people with post-conviction litigation claims for free, here.