Innocence Project Celebrates National Poetry Month

04.03.17 By Carlita Salazar

Innocence Project Celebrates National Poetry Month

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 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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Wanakee Hill April 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply   

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.

Annette Swinford April 3, 2017 at 11:35 pm Reply   

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.

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