Bailey’s YPI Experience with the Innocence Project

The Innocence Project is a non-profit striving to exonerate wrongfully convicted citizens through DNA testing and reforming of the criminal justice system. My group, which consists of Camilo Durr, Natalie White, and Richard Omar Payne, chose the Innocence Project specifically because of its progams training law enforcement. Our social issue, police misconduct, is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. For our site visit, we visited the Innocence Project’s head quarters in New York. We were led into a conference room and interviewed one of their policy associates, Daniel Lehrman. He told us that the Innocence Project sometimes holds a few-day-long training seminars retraining law enforcement. They don’t try to impose new ideas on them, but try to have a healthy, productive relationship with law enforcement. The Innocence Project will provide them with materials for retraining, too. When we asked Mr. Lehrman what the Innocence Project would do with the $5,000 grant, he flipped the question on us by asking us what we would like it to go to. Interested in its retraining programs, we said we would like it to go to the retraining of police officers.

My attitude towards police misconduct has not changed. Before doing the YPI project, I thought it was horrible. After doing the YPI project,  my thoughts are even more concrete. One thing, however, changed in my mind. I knew that a lot of people get wrongfully convicted each year, but I never took the time to realize that 1) wrongful conviction is a serious issue 2) that police misconduct is one of the leading causes of it. I started to hate police misconduct when I first heard about Furgeson. Then Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and countless other people subject to police misconduct. It’s horrible, especially when officers aren’t disciplined in any serious ways. After talking to Mr. Lehrman and researching the Innoncence Project, I realized that wrongful convictions is a problem in itself, but is still very much related to police misconduct. The average amount of time one of the Innocence Project’s exonerates spend in jail is 14 years! Some exoneres were on death row for a crime they didn’t commit. By doing YPI, I realized how big of a problem wrongful conviction is and realized that police misconduct is worse that I initially thought it was.

It was difficult to make our presentation. It was recommended to have as little text as possible (a photo-based presentation), but still convey the non-profit’s mission, progams, relation to the social issue, the social issue itself, and how we were personally affected by the site visit. Plus, we had our site visit only two weeks before the in-class presentation, which determined if we could move on to finals or not. I believe that my presentation-making skills and presenting skills have improved over the few months leading up to the final presentation. I learned how to manage my time and that it is not a good idea to stay up till 12:00 a.m. on the phone with one of your partners, frantically trying to perfect the presentation, script, and Wiki Project?

The most rewarding part of doing YPI was the finals. Even though my group won the $5,000 grant, I was proud of us for making it to finals and presenting in front of a panel of judges and the whole grade about a social issue we are passionate about. It was nice to share all our research and our great non-profit, the Innocence Project, with everyone. I hope to remain in touch with the Innocence Project in some way, but right now, I’m not sure how. It would be great if we had a bake sale or did a school project for them next year.

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