News 04.03.17

Innocence Project Celebrates National Poetry Month

By Carlita Salazar

April is National Poetry Month. For the first time, the Innocence Project will participate in the literary celebration by featuring poetry written by current and past clients, exonerees, artists and our staff that reflects on issues related to criminal justice.

Today, we’re happy to share The Exonerees, a poem by Valencia Craig, the Innocence Project’s case management database administrator and a longtime poet. Craig wrote the poem on the first night of the recent Innocence Network Conference (March 24th and 25th in San Diego) during a special dinner to honor the 166 exonerees who were in attendance.


The Exonerees

Every time another one walks free

I think about where I was

And how old

When the doors first closed behind them.

How many years I lived

While they were enchained,

There are no tears

That can cleanse that pain.


Hearing some of the exonerees share their personal stories was exceptionally meaningful, said Craig.

“Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 spoke about his incarceration. He had been in solitary confinement longer than I have been alive,” she said. “Collectively the exonerees have spent over 2,000 years in prison and over 200 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.”

Related: Black History Month: A Personal Poem Calls On Us to Open Our Eyes

If you have a poem about criminal justice that you’d like to share, send it to [email protected]. We’ll be selecting a number of pieces to share on and on social media this month.  Yours might be chosen!

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  1. Wanakee Hill says:

    Beyond Prison Gates

    Blacks and Browns

    Caught up in red tape.

    Guilty pleas.

    No attorney present.

    A system of hate!

    No way out.

    No way to negate.

    Lives forever changed,

    Beyond prison gates.

    The New Slavery,

    Private prisons await!

    Lives destroyed,

    Years, Decades, Lifetimes,

    For the innocents,

    Rotting in injustices,

    Beyond prison gates.

  2. Annette Swinford says:

    The liar came calling
    Ears bent in belief
    They grabbed your body
    Thrown all around
    Quite a tussle
    To take you down

    Persecute by lies
    Hands all bound
    Your shoulders bent
    Head so bowed low
    Your spirit on hold
    For money I’m told

    They believe in liars
    No matter the truth
    Get him in bars
    But where is the proof
    Shame that a good one
    Gets slapped in the face

    The law has no justice
    It has become a disgrace
    Shame on the man
    Who puts you in chains
    Your time is not spent
    Free and happy it seems

    Let the wrath of God comfort you
    Time will erase
    The good and the bad
    Will all have to face
    Truth will prevail
    You will surely seek his face

    Their hands will be tied
    For lies they tell
    How just it will be
    When all finally see
    You matter to God
    More than life itself it seems.

Thanks for your comment

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