Open Society Foundations Award $5 Million Challenge Grant to Innocence Project

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations announced today it will help bolster the Innocence Project’s new reserve fund campaign.

The campaign aims to establish a $20 million reserve fund to fortify the Innocence Project’s future as a leading criminal justice advocacy institution in the United States. The Innocence Project uses a potent combination of law, science, and social justice advocacy to reverse wrongful convictions in the United States.

“Today, I can think of no organization better placed than the Innocence Project to demonstrate the need for reform and to show the way forward,” said Chris Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations. “By showing us all how we can learn from our mistakes—even the most tragic ones—the Innocence Project has inspired substantial improvements in the administration of justice. We are confident that they will expand on their record of excellent work.”

The Innocence Project works with people who have used all legal avenues to prove their wrongful conviction. Most often they are poor and forgotten by the justice system. Since 1992, 317 people (18 of whom served time on death row) have been exonerated by DNA evidence; the Innocence Project was involved in 173 of these cases.

Open Society will provide up to $5 million in support, beginning with an initial $1 million grant. The foundation will award an additional $1 million for each $2 million the Innocent Project raises.

“By bringing to light the failings of the U.S. criminal justice system in the context of wrongful convictions, the Innocence Project has spurred needed reexamination in multiple areas of criminal justice practice, ranging from forensic science to eyewitness identification,” said Ken Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations. “Given their experience, we are excited about how their growth can advance progress toward a fair, evidence-driven system of justice in this country.”

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The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.