Monday, April 20, 2009

Innocence Project of Texas faces Madoff-spawned budget shortfall

This one hits pretty close to home:

The Innocence Project of Texas faces potential economic oblivion later this year after a foundation whose funds made up the bulk of its income closed its doors due to an infamous Wall Street scandal. In a column in yesterday's Fort Worth Star Telegram, Cory Session, the youngest brother of the late Timothy Cole (who was exonerated posthumously this spring), writes:

The Innocence Project of Texas fights daily for its survival.

Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme robbed the nonprofit of its funding. It will cease to exist after July, unless there is "manna from heaven." The project is operating on fumes and the credit card of one of its volunteers to seek justice for the incarcerated innocent.

On the floor at the Innocence Project office sit boxes of files. Most will never be investigated because there’s no money.

Luckily, [Timothy] Cole’s file was investigated — only it was eight years after he died in prison. The volunteers at the project promised Tim’s mother that they would still seek justice for her son. Their promise resulted in the first posthumous DNA exoneration in Texas.

Often, I have read about millions of dollars being donated to support the arts, which are a vital part of our culture, but I can’t help but wonder why those who "have" are not willing to do the same for the innocent.

The Innocence Project of Texas has a proven track record of numerous exonerations.

Tim Cole will never get to enjoy the arts.

I've been working since last year as the Policy Director for the Innocence Project of Texas, so obviously this unhappy possibility of the group's closure means a great deal to me personally, but so does the potential loss of an organization that's been an important change agent in Texas over the last couple of years.

If you've been following Texas' DNA exonerations on this blog or elsewhere and believe the work of the Innocence Project of Texas is important and needs to continue, I hope you'll consider making a donation to the group, as Kathy and I just did, in Timothy Cole's memory. And thanks, Cory, for your kind words and the helpful plug for the group.


Charlie O said...

Intereresting that you made this post this morning. I read Cory's article just last in the Star Telegram. (I'm visiting my mom in Fort Worth and my wife in Gatesville, I now live in PA). I made the decision last night to make a contribution to the Texas Innocence Project although I no longer reside here. My wife is a guest of TDCJ, she is not innocent and will tell you so. The Innocence Project can do you no good, but this state has just a horrible record of incarceration and justice denied that I felt compelled to help.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks Charlie, I appreciate that a lot. And I hope your wife outstays her welcome as TDCJ's "guest" sooner than later. :)

michael's girl said...

I hope and pray this doesn't happen. My boyfriend is serving more then life sentence for something he didn't do. The Innocent project said they were sending him questionnaire as well as opening investigation into his case. He has never had hope before and they brought him hope that he can go home. I will keep them in my prayers he is innocent all the way.

Anonymous said...

I have followed this subject as well as all the others pertaining to our so-called justice system and prison system here in Texas. My husband is incarcerated here in Texas and just from the little time he's been in (7 months) and who knows how much longer since you deal with the BPP which is inconsistent as well....I feel for all the families who deal with this system here in Texas or anywhere in the US for that matter. I will do my best to donate what I can to this cause even though my husband isn't innocent.....but he also doesn't deserve the sentence he received, instead should have been given rehab and community service. Sitting behind the prison walls helps no one...there isn't any rehab and then you put people in that are innocent and then what...they die before they are found innocent, they are away from their families and the families are put under a financial strain trying to help their loved one in prison whether they are innocent or guilty. Some of these people are put behind the prison walls for a long time and in a lot of cases too long for the "crime" they committed or didn't commit. I will pray they get the funding they need to keep fighting the fight for all those out there. God Bless us all.

Westasy's Lady