The Illinois Innocence Project’s three-pronged mission guides our work to bring justice to the wrongfully convicted.
We evaluate and investigate cases for credible claims of an Illinois inmate’s innocence, and, when appropriate, provide legal representation and/or other assistance toward proving innocence.
We provide education about wrongful convictions and important educational and experiential opportunities for undergraduate students at UIS and law students around the state.
We work to enact meaningful reforms to the Illinois criminal justice system to protect innocent people from wrongful conviction.
What We Do
The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) is dedicated to freeing innocent men and women imprisoned in Illinois for crimes they did not commit. We advocate on behalf of this silenced population by researching and investigating claims of innocence, and providing legal representation and other assistance to prove credible claims of actual innocence.
The Project reviews over 300 requests for help from Illinois inmates each year. Undergraduates at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and law students from the state’s public law schools work alongside and at the direction of Project attorneys to review, evaluate and, where strong evidence of actual innocence exists, investigate and legally pursue claims of innocence.
To date, IIP’s work has led to the release of 11 innocent individuals, and the posthumous exoneration of another, who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in Illinois.
The Project places a high priority on education. IIP attorneys teach the “Conviction of the Innocent” class at UIS and present to students at public university law schools and other higher education institutions throughout the state. Our “Police Training Initiative” (PTI) educates police cadets at the University of Illinois Police Training Institute about preventing wrongful convictions. Project staff regularly speak to a broad range of innocence topics, including the post-conviction legal process and DNA evidence testing, to community and regional groups and at national conferences.
IIP has played a meaningful role in the enactment of legislation to reform the criminal justice system. In 2018, the Project proposed legislation to protect innocent people from jailhouse informant testimony. Illinois lawmakers passed the bill with strong bipartisan support but then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it. The legislature overrode the governor’s veto, enacting, effective January 1, 2019, the strongest law in the nation to prevent wrongful convictions due to the use of “jailhouse snitches.”
With this law, Illinois will be the first state in the country to require judges to hold pre-trial reliability hearings before jailhouse informant witness testimony is admissible in murder, sexual assault and arson cases. In addition, the law requires prosecutors to disclose key evidence regarding jailhouse informant witnesses to the defense, including benefits provided in exchange for testimony and their complete criminal history and previous jailhouse informant activities.
Also in 2018, IIP worked closely with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to secure state compensation owed to Illinois exonerees and delayed by the state’s fiscal crisis; and in prior years, to enact legislation mandating eyewitness identification best practices.