The Innocence Center (TIC) acknowledges the historical and omnipresent systems of racism, privilege, inequity, colonialism, sexism, and systematic oppression of racial and ethnic marginalized groups in the United States and throughout the world. 

As an organization wielding significant influence and discretion in selecting whom to represent and how to serve incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, we acknowledge the crucial importance of introspection regarding our biases. We recognize the potential impact of these biases on decision-making processes. 

In our mission to secure the release of innocent individuals from prison, we are dedicated to integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles throughout our legal advocacy. Through this commitment to DEI, our goal is to create an environment and platform that are finely attuned to the complexities of human experiences, acknowledging the profound effects of systemic injustices. 

This approach not only fosters fairness at an individual level but also establishes the foundation for systemic reforms, nurturing a legal landscape that is inherently more just and resilient against the pitfalls of wrongful convictions.

TIC is currently a member of the Innocence Network, which released a formal statement defining DEI principles and reinforcing our commitment to carry out those principles in practice.

The Innocence Network has committed, and we, in turn, have also committed to:

  • Overturn the wrongful convictions of innocent people while highlighting the fact that, especially for clients of color, such convictions often stem from systemic inequities including racism, sexism, discrimination based on gender identity and/or expression, and socioeconomic imbalance.
  • Practice cultural humility with our clients, and have full and informed relationships with them.
  • Recruit, hire, and retain more attorneys and staff of color at all levels of innocence work, particularly for leadership roles, using equitable employment practices. Do so with an eye towards supporting colleagues of color in the Network, and providing clients–largely people of color themselves–the opportunity for positive legal interactions with people with whom they might feel a shared group identity.
  • Grow cultural humility within the Innocence Network through added opportunities for guided self-reflection and critique, as well as opportunities to interact with and learn from clients and colleagues with diverse backgrounds and experiences.  
  • End unjust and inequitable practices that disproportionately affect marginalized people in our criminal legal system (for example, the manipulation by the police of youth, the mentally ill, mothers who are grieving the loss of a child, and people of color, to obtain false confessions). 
  • Recognize and address the consequences of wrongful incarceration and amplify the voices of the wrongfully convicted, their families, and other affected persons. 

TIC staff has played a proactive role in instigating systematic changes within the Innocence Network organization. This involvement is exemplified by our staff taking on leadership roles such as serving on the Innocence Network’s DEI Committee. The committee has been actively immersed in DEI initiatives, emphasizing training and tackling both internal and external issues. Notably, members of the Innocence Network DEI Committee provide nationwide guidance and training on DEI-related matters that may arise in legal advocacy or within the organization itself. TIC has had a hand in the development of two Network-wide resource guides: A resource created to guide our use of language about the criminal legal system and those it affects and another guiding the practice of cultural humility for fostering inclusive environments. TIC has taken the lead in organizing the inaugural BIPOC Innocence Network Organization Staff Leadership Retreat within the Innocence Network. The retreat is designed to foster connections, facilitate healing, and empower members of the Innocence Network who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color.

None of the above efforts, taken alone or together, are “solutions” that will eradicate systematic oppression. Rather, these are small efforts meant to do our part in fostering individual and organizational awareness in areas where DEI principles come into play. 

Accordingly, this statement will remain a living document, to be re-considered and revised every three to five years, because our drive to attain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive society is unending.