Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $599,988)
The systemic racism of the criminal legal system is not a new topic but one that has come to the forefront of criminal justice policy work. Wrongful convictions have a significant and ripple effect on marginalized communities. Wrongful convictions not only disproportionally affect communities of color and those that are impoverished, but the effects are widespread and create exponential harm. The communities distrust the police when their families and loved ones are harmed, the legal system when an innocent person is convicted, and they remain subject to the real perpetrator of what is most often a violent crime.
The majority of people who seek assistance from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) are economically disadvantaged, people of color from Wayne County, the CIU’s service area.
The purpose of the application is to enhance the capacity of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) and its criminal justice system and partners to better identify and assess post-conviction claims of innocence, bring justice for victims, prevent future injustices, and promote racial equity.
The CIU will accomplish this through four main objectives: educate stakeholders and eliminate barriers by undertaking a sentinel review; conduct a systematic review of an officer’s or officers’ cases; increase the capacity of the CIU by hiring staff to work fulltime on second tier case screening work; and finally, develop and implement policies that result in addressing and educating police and prosecutors on the common causes of wrongful convictions and how to better address cases where one or more common cause is present.
As a result of the efforts undertaken and made possible with grant funds, the CIU will create and implement procedures to identify the perpetrator of a crime more vigorously when we have identified a wrongful conviction; improve internal procedures to collect the case-level data required to empirically study the types and frequency of errors and identify systemic issues; utilize the data collected to design and implement training protocols for a wide variety of stakeholders – prosecutors, judges, law enforcement, and defense attorneys; and more effectively and efficiently respond to claims of innocence.