News 09.30.22

Bipartisan Justice For All Act Introduced in U.S. Senate

This legislation would help to identify, remediate, and prevent wrongful convictions nationwide.

By Julia Lucivero

Lady justice. (Image: Unsplash)

This week, the Justice For All Act reauthorization bill was introduced in the United States Senate. This important bipartisan legislation, which includes critical components of the Innocence Protection Act, would help to identify, remediate, and prevent wrongful convictions nationwide. The Innocence Project applauds the coalition of bipartisan leaders, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), for sponsoring this bill and championing meaningful change to increase access to justice and protect all stakeholders – people who are wrongfully convicted, prosecutors seeking just convictions, survivors of crime and the community who want public safety.

“In the fight against wrongful convictions, this legislation would expand and strengthen the infrastructure that identifies and investigates wrongful convictions and provides post-conviction representation to innocent people nationwide,” said Rebecca Brown, Policy Director at the Innocence Project. “We are grateful to our Senate leaders for working with us over the last two years to develop this bill. Exonerations not only free individuals, but also reveal errors and harms that must be addressed to improve the administration of justice, including preventing inequitable outcomes that too often prevail.”

The bill’s filing comes on the heels of the National Registry of Exonerations’ report, Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States 2022, released earlier this week. The study confirmed alarming racial disparities in the criminal legal system — that Black people in the U.S. are seven times more likely than white people to be falsely convicted of serious crimes, more likely to be the targets of police misconduct, and spend longer in prison before being exonerated. The report, which analyzed exonerations for murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes since 1989, underscores the urgent need for the Justice for All Act to pass into law and address the egregious racial disparities in wrongful convictions by strengthening and expanding post-conviction investigations and expert representation of those who are wrongfully convicted.

The legislation includes provisions advocated for by the Innocence Project and the national Innocence Network, such as:

Codification of the Wrongful Conviction Review grant program. 

This provision would support innocence organizations nationwide in identifying and investigating wrongful convictions and providing expert post-conviction representation that results in exonerations.s 

Authorization of a new CIU grant program. 

This initiative would create a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) grant program to fund state and local prosecutor offices to review potential wrongful convictions, especially those who work collaboratively with innocence clinics and public defenders to establish CIUs, which can reveal systemic failures which the Innocence Project works to reform.

Reauthorization and Improvement of the Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Grant Program. 

This provision would expand access to the program to both states and localities and permit more grantees to participate in the program through more flexible requirements for demonstrating preservation of biological evidence. 

In the lead up to Wrongful Conviction Day this Sunday, October 2, it is a pivotal moment to share the introduction of this bill on social media, and urge your federal lawmakers to support the Justice For All Act, as it moves through Congress. 

 

Please consider using the below sample tweet this Sunday, October 2 on Wrongful Conviction Day:

[[email protected] handle] Please support the passage of Justice For All Act ASAP to support investigations of wrongful convictions & expert representation to free the innocent nationwide. @InnocenceNetwork @Innocence #WrongfulConvictionDay

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