Meet August's Change for the Community Register Round-up Recipient: The Innocence Project of Florida

Established in 2003, the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is a non-profit organization that advocates for persons imprisoned in Florida whose innocence can be confirmed by DNA testing or who otherwise have credible claims to legal relief. IPF also helps those proven innocent to ease back into a changed society and works to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future wrongful convictions. IPF receives no funding from the State of Florida and is supported solely by grants and donations. 

The inmates represented by IPF have exhausted the appeals process and have no other recourse to obtain their release. They are moms and dads, sons and daughters - many have spent decades in prison locked away from their families while the real perpetrators remain free. 
IPF receives dozens of inquiries monthly from inmates and their families seeking assistance. Innocence cases are complex, challenging and costly – often taking five to seven years and hundreds of man-hours to reach exoneration. What are the costs associated with finding freedom? They vary from case to case, at times the fees associated are the only barrier that innocent inmates and their families face in fighting a wrongful sentence. IPF’s litigation team: 
 
  • Screens and investigates cases to identify credible innocence claims, 
  • Secures DNA testing through litigation when biological evidence exists, and 
  • Advocates for the release of each inmate proven innocent by this highly reliable scientific analysis or other newly discovered evidence. 

IPF was first innocence project in the nation to have a full-time social worker to provide transitional assistance for exonerees, who return to a world very different from the one they left behind. They coordinate an array of transitional services including medical and psychological support, to job training and housing assistance, to assisting exonerees with buy groceries, pay bills, and purchasing clothes for work. 

They also work to ensure the restoration of their civil rights. The number of imprisoned innocents will continue to grow unless we create a system that corrects the most common causes of wrongful convictions like, eyewitness misidentification, unreliable or limited science, false confessions, forensic science fraud or misconduct, and more. In addition to spearheading policy initiatives in these areas of reform, IPF was instrumental in advocating for legislation and court rules expanding access to DNA testing in Florida and assisted in the creation of the Florida Innocence Commission.