Introducing #barriers2innocence

June 19, 2020:

Tomorrow kicks off our #barriers2innocence campaign. Our country is at the precipice of a major culture shift. Racism in the criminal justice system is being brought to the fore. As an innocence organization, we work to combat systemic racism because we know that there are numerous barriers between Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and justice that exist solely because of racism. We will be posting content for the next two weeks that demonstrates these barriers in an effort to increase awareness about the broken system that is responsible for the death of George Floyd, the wrongful convictions of hundreds of BIPOC, and countless other injustices. Each day, we will explore a different barrier and provide action steps you can take to address them, including how you can donate to our organization in honor of your commitment to helping us dismantle #barriers2innocence.

June 20:

To begin our #barriers2innocence campaign, we want to highlight one of the most fundamental ways that racism seeps into the criminal justice system: implicit bias. In the coming days, we will pinpoint ways in which bias occurs in policing and prosecuting, but today’s post aims to explain the difference between conscious and unconscious racism and how unconscious racism occurs. Click on the post to learn about how both forms of bias are #barrier2innocence. 

June 21:

Yesterday, we covered implicit bias and how it differs from explicit bias. Today, we will discuss how both forms of bias exist in policing, creating a #barrier2innocence for BIPOC. Our post features an interview with University of Montana law student Jacob Elder who shares his current efforts to address racism in policing and explains how bias-motivated policing promotes inequality in other areas of the criminal justice system. Click on the post to learn more about this #barrier2innocence.

June 22:

To finish our discussion on bias in the criminal justice system, we want to highlight bias-motivated prosecution as today’s #barrier2innocence. We talked with Robin Hammond, a former prosecutor and a current public defender with the Montana State Office of the Public Defender, about racial bias in prosecution and how it perpetuates racial inequality and wrongful convictions. Click on the link to hear our interview and learn how bias-motivated prosecution is a #barrier2innocence for BIPOC.

June 23:

From Emmett Till to Brian Banks to the 911 call made by Amy Cooper in Central Park just last month, false accusations have historically been a #barrier2innocence for BIPOC, and they still are today. Click on the link to learn more.

June 24:

About 20 percent of all exonerations based on DNA evidence used a police-coerced confession to wrongfully convict. For today’s #barrier2innocence, we are exploring how coerced confessions are specifically used to wrongfully convict BIPOC, highlighting the cases of Daniel Jackson and the Central Park Five. Click on the link to learn more:

June 25:

Prosecutors rely heavily on witness identifications, but research shows that due to own-race bias, cross-racial identifications are often unreliable. Click on the link to learn more about how this is a #barrier2innocence for BIPOC.

June 26:

The presumption of guilt is a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system, but this right is not afforded to everyone. In fact, many BIPOC are presumed guilty⁠—leading to possible police brutality and the overuse of pre-trial detention. Click on the link to learn how the presumption of guilt is a #barrier2innocence for BIPOC.

June 27:

When presumed guilty, innocent BIPOC may be detained pre-trial for days, weeks, months, and in some cases, years if unable to afford cash bail. We spoke with SK Rossi, the Director of Advocacy and Policy at the ACLU of Montana, and David Herbst, the State Director of Americans for Prosperity Montana, about how the cash bail system promotes inequality for those who are still legally innocent. Click on the link to learn more:

June 28:

When racial bias permeates policing and prosecution, an impartial jury is the last stop before a wrongful conviction occurs. But in a state like Montana where all-White juries are prevalent, this proves to be a #barrier2innocence for BIPOC. Click on the link to learn more and to hear our interview with Robin Hammond, a former prosecutor and a current public defender with the Montana State Office of the Public Defender:

June 29:

When incarcerating people is an incentive to make more money, the private prison system becomes a #barrier2innocence. We spoke with SK Rossi, the Director of Advocacy and Policy for the ACLU of Montana, about how it disparately impacts BIPOC.

June 30:

Our country’s population makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, but our inmates make up nearly 25 percent of the world’s inmate population. Mass incarceration is a #barrier2innocence because, as famously argued in Netflix documentary “The 13th” by Ava DuVernay and the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander, it’s a result of our country’s desire to enact modern-day slavery.

July 1:

For the last day of our #barriers2innocence campaign, we spoke with Montana Racial Equity Project Executive Director and former police officer, Judith Heilman, and Dr. Laurie A. Walker, a Tenured Associate Professor for the University of Montana’s School of Social Work, about how the over-policing and criminalization of BIPOC achieves mass incarceration. Click on the link to learn more:

July 2:

Thank you for participating in the Montana Innocence Project’s #barrier2innocence campaign. We hope that you will continue to learn about the many systemic hurdles Black, Indigenous, and People of Color face when attempting to experience equal justice. We will continue to dismantle these barriers in our work as an innocence organization. Click on the link to learn how you can commit to dismantling them as well: