By Cindy Kaplan, Brandeis University
Today, the Brandeis University Innocence Club will be holding a Day of Innocence on our campus to spread the word about wrongful convictions and the reforms to prevent them. As the Innocence Project’s new “
” campaign demonstrates, young people like us are the most affected by this problem and we’re also in a perfect position to do something about it. For our Day of Innocence, we’ll be holding a massive distribution of information, especially about the “947 Years” campaign and the role of race in our criminal justice system. By engaging our fellow students, we are ensuring that the next generation of jurors, lawyers, judges, activists, and politicians will be conscious of this issue, and hopefully we’ll see some change in our criminal justice system.
I helped to found the Innocence Club last September after I finished a class called “Investigating Justice,” where we worked on a case of a possibly innocent man in prison. We researched the causes of wrongful convictions in depth, and now we had a face to match to these issues. Once the class was over, we couldn’t give up on the cause. Knowing that people’s lives can be taken away from them for no reason, knowing that it could have been any one of us, we decided to start a club to raise awareness about this issue.
Groups like this can’t just exist at Brandeis, though. We need to see students mobilizing around this issue on college campuses and high schools around the country. Innocent people are having their lives torn away from them every day, and we have the power to voice the need for change.
The first change we ought to make is granting greater access to DNA testing. There is no reason to deny people access to DNA testing. Shouldn’t we be sure that we are convicting the right people? When an innocence person is imprisoned, the guilty person is still roaming free. Greater access to DNA testing would ensure that our criminal justice system is indeed just. Distribute the petition, and educate others about these issues. Education is empowering; student groups have the means to educate, the idealism to commit to change, and the “947 Years” campaign to get them going.
If you’re in the Boston area, come find us on Brandeis’ campus today. If you’re at another college campus and you’re ready to start an Innocence Club, check out the Innocence Project’s
Start a School Group page
. There are countless innocent people behind bars in the U.S., and together we can set them free. College campuses are the right place to start.