About the California Innocence Project

Our Missions

The California Innocence Project has three missions:

  • Free the wrongfully convicted from prison.
  • Work to reform the criminal justice system.
  • Train law students to become zealous advocates.

About Us

Founded in 1999, the California Innocence Project (CIP) reviews more than 2,000 claims of innocence from California inmates each year. CIP has secured the release of dozens of innocent people who otherwise may have spent the rest of their lives wrongfully incarcerated.

As a clinical program at California Western School of Law, students from the school apply to participate in CIP’s year-long clinic. Selected students work alongside CIP staff attorneys on cases where there is strong evidence of factual innocence. They assist in case investigation and litigation by locating and re-interviewing witnesses, visiting crime scenes, examining new evidence, filing motions, securing experts, and providing support to attorneys during evidentiary hearings and trials.

Since its inception, the California Innocence Project has been involved in changing law and policies in California related to preserving evidence, litigating innocence cases, preventing misidentifications, and compensating exonerees.

About Innocence Work

More than 60 innocence organizations have been established in the U.S. and worldwide and have freed hundreds of innocent people since the 1990s. Organizations are located in Ohio, Washington, Florida, Arizona, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Holland and elsewhere.

Litigating an Innocence Case

If strong evidence of innocence exists, we ask the court to reopen the case through an evidentiary hearing. If the court decides that we have provided enough evidence of innocence, the client is exonerated.

Causes of Wrongful Convictions

There are nearly 2,000 documented cases of wrongful convictions in the U.S. The leading causes of wrongful convictions are bad identifications, false confessions, false informant testimony, official misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel.

How You Can Help

As a nonprofit organization, the California Innocence Project relies on volunteer and donor support to do its work. Make a donation here, and learn about CIP’s volunteer opportunities here.

Message from CIP Director Justin Brooks

In 1999, we founded the California Innocence Project with 3 goals:

1) To free innocent people from prison

2) To provide outstanding training to our law students so they will become great lawyers

3) To change laws and procedures to decrease the number of wrongful convictions and improve the justice system

I am very proud of the accomplishments we have achieved with all of these goals.  We have brought home many innocent clients over the years and experienced the joy of reuniting them with their families.  We have seen our law graduates go on to do great things.  And, we have participated in changing many laws that assist our work and improve the lives of our clients.

Over the years it has given me great joy to see our work go global in an “innocence movement” that grows bigger and stronger every day. Our project has been deeply involved in Latin America, launching Red Inocenté, a network of innocence projects throughout the region. We have also been involved in international cases, helping to free Jason Puracal from Nicaragua and representing Grace and Mathew Huang in their wrongful incarceration case in Qatar.

There is still a great deal of work for us to do and it’s not cheap.  Simple expenses like gas money for us to visit our clients in remote prisons,  our phone bill so clients can call us from prison, and copies of transcripts and crime scene photos can add up. I encourage you to explore our website and consider donating.  Your generous contribution is 100% tax deductible and will be used to further the work of our project.

Justin Brooks

Director, California Innocence Project