Sentencing Sherpa recommends…

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The Sentencing Sherpa compiled a list of resources and organizations who are committed to building sustainable communities and reforming the criminal justice system in America.

Since 1977, the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) has worked to break the destructive cycle often associated with the human service and correctional systems. We provide individual care, concern, and treatment for emotionally disturbed youth, developmentally disabled adults and adolescents, and those involved in the criminal justice system.

The National Center for Reason and Justice was established out of concern for the failings of the criminal-justice system. Recent exonerations of convicted people via DNA evidence demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that innocent people have been unjustly imprisoned or executed, especially those without the financial means to defend themselves against the state, the media, and other powerful institutions. Most of the innocent have been convicted because of faulty eyewitness testimony, coerced confessions, or the acceptance of junk science in the courtroom. Especially vulnerable have been those accused of sex offenses — especially sex offenses against children and adolescents. While none of us deny that these crimes occur, those accused nevertheless have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to receive fair trials. But too often, hysteria reigns and the accused are tried and convicted by the media. The National Center for Reason and Justice hopes to educate the public about current injustices and also to facilitate financial and legal assistance for the falsely accused and wrongfully convicted.

The National Child Abuse Defense & Resource Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating professionals and the falsely accused on factual, scientific data regarding child abuse allegations. For the falsely accused, they offer referrals for leading professionals from the legal, mental health, and medical fields. For the defense team, they provide relevant research, expert referrals, and other resources necessary to be successful at trial. For those who investigate, substantiate and prosecute claims of child abuse, the National Child Abuse Defense & Resource Center provides resources to aid in objective assessment and conclusions that effectively distinguish genuine abuse victims from children that intentionally or mistakenly make or are coerced into making false allegations.

The Innocence Network is an affiliation of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions. In 2009, the work of Innocence Network member organizations led to the exoneration of 27 people in the United States. Read a report on these 27 cases here. For news and scholarly articles on wrongful convictions and reforms to address them, visit the Actual Innocence Awareness database, maintained by the University of Texas School of Law. The Innocence Network recognizes the fact that in working to prove the innocence of the wrongfully convicted, victims and family and friends of victims are often affected, which may cause legitimate concerns and fears. The Innocence Network has adopted a Statement Concerning Victims which addresses those concerns.

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 258 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.

Truth in Justice is an educational non-profit organized to educate the public regarding the vulnerabilities in the U. S. criminal justice system that make the criminal conviction of wholly innocent persons possible.

The Justice Project is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fighting injustice and creating a more humane and just world. Founders of The Justice Project are veterans of war who have risked their lives fighting injustice. Their military experiences left them with an understanding of human suffering and a desire to leave a legacy of fairness for future generations. The Justice Project is working to increase fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system. TJP develops, coordinates, and implements integrated national and state-based campaigns involving public education, litigation and legislation to reform the criminal justice system, with particular focus on capital punishment. Our work is supported by thousands of grassroots supporters nationwide.

The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration. The Sentencing Project was founded in 1986 to provide defense lawyers with sentencing advocacy training and to reduce the reliance on incarceration. Since that time, The Sentencing Project has become a leader in the effort to bring national attention to disturbing trends and inequities in the criminal justice system with a successful formula that includes the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns and strategic advocacy for policy reform.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums is the national voice for fair and proportionate sentencing laws. We shine a light on the human face of sentencing, advocate for state and federal sentencing reform, and mobilize thousands of individuals and families whose lives are adversely affected by unjust sentences.

The Southern Center for Human Rights provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States. The Center is a non-profit, public interest organization. It depends on generous donations from individuals to carry on its work. It receives no government funding.

ReformSexOffenderLaws.Org is the website of a campaign to Reform Sex Offender Laws now. The campaign grew out of an effort in the late 1990s in Boston by a group of civil libertarians, educators and other professionals who were concerned by a growing panic about sex with children which was generating laws that were ill-conceived and eroding general civil liberties. There is no formal organization, only an informal group of people dedicated to fostering discussion of issues involved in current trends in the United States toward punishing, registering and publicly shaming a larger and larger group of sex offenders.

The primary mission of Centurion Ministries is to vindicate and free from prison those who are completely innocent of the crimes for which they have been unjustly convicted and imprisoned for life or death. Additionally, Centurion Ministries provides assistance to clients upon release with reintegration into society on a self-reliant basis.

Justice: Denied magazine publicizes cases of wrongful conviction, and exposes how and why they occur. Justice: Denied is produced by volunteer writers, editors and other persons located throughout the United States and other countries.

Other relevant information: Citizens for Change, America (sex offense fact sheet available here); Ethical Treatment for All Youth; Prison Legal News; and a study on wrongful convictions is available here.