Last Thursday the Innocence Project staff gathered for its annual tradition: Thanksgiving lunch with all the fixings. It’s a special time that we at the Innocence Project cherish and eagerly anticipate—an hour to share a special meal together.
As I sat there enjoying my lunch, surrounded by my many Innocence Project colleagues, I was struck by the number of very committed individuals in the room. I was also inspired by the energy that they bring to their work each day. Some of them have been with the project since its inception nearly 25 years ago. And in the days following, as I reflected more on the many great people—both within and outside of the organization—that make the Innocence Project’s work possible, I was moved by how deeply their contributions change lives.
This year, The Innocence Project helped to exonerate and free seven men from across the country. I am tremendously thankful to the people—our friends who provided countless hours of pro bono assistance as well as our donors—who supported the Innocence Project through the long haul. All of these individuals continue to believe that justice and equality are principles worth fighting and striving for.
And to those men and women who are newly exonerated, to them I say: thank you for your strength, your perseverance and your families. I speak on behalf of the entire staff at the Innocence Project when I say that we all feel so fortunate to have been a part of your journey to freedom.
Also this year, the Innocence Project had remarkable victories in many legislatures and with law enforcement organizations and agencies across the country. These successes were possible only because of the loyal allies that believe in our work and greater justice. They include law makers on both sides of the aisle. They include policing agencies, large and small. They also include the members of the Innocence Network. Together, we improved laws and practices—moving us closer to the ever-stronger and more just society that we so deserve. I’m proud and grateful for those allies. And I know that we can do even more in the year to come.
And we will need to do more.
In this season of celebration, we would be remiss not to think of the many men and women who remain unjustly incarcerated. Especially during this time of year, their hardship weighs heavy on my mind and heart. And in this season, we at the Innocence Project send them our love, to help them stay strong as we work hard to bring home more people next year.
But sympathy and well wishes alone are not productive. We must all continue to work hard together until innocent people are freed.
Now is the time to dig deep. There is a lot of work to do. Please join me and the Innocence Project as we press ahead.