As we near the final days of the Obama administration, we’d like to extend a special thank you to President Obama, the executive staff, the leaders throughout the federal agencies and a bipartisan Congress for supporting policies to protect the innocent and to help people exonerated of wrongful convictions to rebuild their lives. Some of the notable accomplishments that we have supported over the past four years include:
- Strengthening forensic science by establishing the National Commission on Forensic Science to “promote scientific validity, reduce fragmentation, and improve federal coordination of forensic science,” and expanding research programs at federal agencies including National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has taken a leadership role in setting standards for how forensic disciplines should be used;
- Reauthorization of the Justice for All Act, which improves access to post-conviction DNA testing in federal cases and reauthorizes federal funding for programs that help reveal and remediate wrongful convictions;
- Passage of the Wrongful Conviction Tax Relief Act of 2015 which bars federal taxation of compensation awarded to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted; and
- Convening the President’s Task Force on 21th Century Policing, which included several recommendations to strengthen community policing to protect the innocent including, encouraging police to adopt scientifically supported eyewitness identification procedures, urging law enforcement agencies to acknowledge their role in injustices and discrimination and promoting training to recognize and confront implicit bias.
While these were major accomplishments, there is still much work to be done. We look forward to working with the new administration and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to continue our important work. It is critical that we ensure that all forensic disciplines are backed by the best science and governed by meaningful standards, that the wrongly convicted have broad access to the courts to prove their innocence and that those exonerated of crimes which they didn’t commit are supported in their efforts to rebuild their lives.