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Ohio Innocence Project Awarded $125K Grant to Support New Criminal Justice Reform Program

Cincinnati, OH— The George Gund Foundation has awarded the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, a national leader in exonerating wrongly convicted individuals, a $125,000 grant to support a new criminal justice ethics and education initiative. This two-year grant is the third award the OIP has received this fall to expand and build upon its work.

“The Gund Foundation is a leader in promoting creative solutions to social problems.  This grant will help us establish a national model for innocence education and reform,” said Mark Godsey, Director of the Ohio Innocence Project. “We greatly appreciate the Gund Foundation’s confidence in OIP and the innocence movement.”

The OIP is one of the most well-known and successful innocence organizations in the nation. Through the efforts of OIP attorneys, staff and hundreds of clinic student fellows, 25 individuals have obtained their freedom on grounds of innocence to date.  Cumulatively, they have served more than 471 years in prison. 

Research has shown that there are many reasons for miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system—from contaminated DNA evidence and mistaken eyewitness identification, to ignorance of police best practices. The Gund grant, combined with $75K of existing support, will enable the OIP promote criminal justice reform and educate policymakers, the public, and others about best practices to prevent wrongful convictions.

Thanks to the Gund Foundation grant, the OIP will launch a four-pronged Criminal Justice and Education Project. Specifically, the OIP will:
1) hire an Ethics and Best Practices Educator, an attorney who will raise awareness of “best practices” within the criminal justice system that would help eliminate and remediate wrongful convictions;
2) develop an educational curriculum for the law enforcement community covering issues connected to wrongful convictions, such as false confessions and biases that inform eyewitness identification;
3) conduct a public education campaign in Southwest and Northeast Ohio that includes meeting one-on-one and with groups within the criminal justice system to discuss the OIP’s work and other issues relevant to improving criminal justice practices in Ohio; and,
4) collaborate with law firms in those communities to raise matching funds to keep this important work going long term.

“The Gund Foundation gift allows the OIP to take its work to the next level,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean of the College of Law. “To increase its impact in the state and beyond, OIP has focused on criminal justice reform.  In so doing, it is teaching our students how to use the law to make substantive change—in addition to addressing injustices.  The Gund Foundation gift enhances the transformative potential of the OIP, not only for its clients, but also for future attorneys.”