Durbin Announces $754K in Federal Funding for UIS Innocence Project

[SPRINGFIELD, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has been awarded a $753,958 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. IIP will use the grant funds to perform investigations and DNA testing in additional cases where inmates have a credible claim of innocence, with a particular focus on Latino inmates who have often faced additional barriers to pursuing innocence claims due to language and other factors. IIP was one of eight recipients nationwide to receive a grant under this competitive grant program in fiscal year 2015.

“When there is a credible claim that the system got a conviction wrong, the attorneys and students of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project step in to help set it right. And the demand for the Project’s services is high, especially after Illinois passed a law in 2014 allowing for defendants who entered guilty pleas to seek DNA testing. I was pleased to offer my strong support for the Project’s grant application, and I am thrilled that the Project has received this important funding,” Durbin said. “I want to commend the staff and students of the Illinois Innocence Project for their outstanding work in exonerating the innocent and making our justice system better.”

 The Illinois Innocence Project was founded in 2001 and initially used undergraduate students to assist in case investigations.  In 2011, with the help of federal funding, the Project hired its first attorney and began providing direct representation to help individuals throughout the state prove their innocence.  Since its creation, the IIP has helped secure the release of eight wrongly-convicted people – including five in the last three years – that collectively served a total of 153 years in Illinois prisons at a cost of $3.5 million to Illinois taxpayers.

The grant funding is part of the Kirk Bloodsworth Grant Program for Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence to Exonerate the Innocent – a program Durbin helped establish in 2004 when he worked to pass the Innocence Protection Act.