New opportunities for UWT students to volunteer their time and talents for systemic and criminal justice reform.
The UWT Black Student Union (BSU) is fundraising to support the Innocence Project. Founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld, the Innocence Project began as a program of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University until it became a non-profit after obtaining 501(c)3 status in 2004.
“BSU is partnering with the Innocence Project because we believe they are making a difference in society and will continue to do so with our support. We want to see the legal system stop making grave errors that put wrongfully incarcerated people behind bars,” said Jasmine Davis, the UWT Black Student Union President.
The Washington Innocence Project, established in 1997 by Professor Jacqueline McMurtrie, is Washington state’s chapter of the non-profit and was the second Innocence Project chapter to open in the United States. Now an independent national nonprofit, the organization describes their services as being “guided by science and grounded in anti-racism.”
The Innocence Project provides legal representation to exonerate innocent individuals who have been wrongly convicted and incarcerated. They also work to achieve criminal justice and legal policy reform, pursued by the organization’s strategic litigation and policy departments.
The Innocence Project provides social services to individuals who have been exonerated, in an effort to help them rebuild their lives upon release. The organization’s science and research department spearheads research and community education to cultivate informed understanding of systemic racism and how it disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, specifically within the criminal justice system.
On the Innocence Project’s website, the organization lists some of the most common causes of wrongful conviction, which include eyewitness misidentification, unvalidated or improper forensic science, false confessions/admissions, government misconduct, informants/snitches and poor legal representation.
Davis explains that the BSU’s Innocence Project fundraiser runs consistently throughout the school year, raising funds at multiple events in an effort to donate to the non-profit organization. Some of the 2023 fundraising events include the MLK Unity Breakfast held in January and the Black Promenade, which took place February 25.
“In support of the Innocence Project and its efforts, the BSU will also donate a portion of club fundraisings to the organization. Other ways for students to get involved include helping spread the word and by volunteering or attending other events that (the BSU holds) in dedication to the Innocence Project,” said CJ James, UWT Black Student Union Vice President.
The BSU plans to grow their fundraising efforts to extend throughout the current school year, as well as into the 2023-2024 school year. The RSO is in the process of creating new ways for UWT students, staff and faculty to participate in the Innocence Project fundraiser. Soon, the BSU will offer opportunities for UWT students to provide input and ideas that contribute to fundraising and community building projects, specifically to benefit the Innocence Project fundraiser.
“This year we want to provide more avenues students can take to be able to support the Innocence Project in a greater way. We have some ideas for spring quarter, and we also want to hear our members’ ideas for more ways we can go about supporting them. This would provide (students) an opportunity to be more involved in the community and it provides a space for them to support a greater cause,” Davis said.
If you would like to donate to the BSU’s Innocence Project fundraiser, you can find the BSU on CashApp at $uwtacomabsu and on Venmo at @uwtbsu. Venmo donors can email the UWT BSU for a four-digit code to donate.
BSU general meetings are slated to resume Spring Quarter 2023. General meetings are used as a centralized way to focus club fundraising efforts, deliver information for upcoming projects and events and create community around the BSU’s mission to “offer a sense of community and unity for Black students on campus by providing an open and positive forum for students to express their views.”
If you are interested in joining the BSU’s fundraising efforts or would like to learn more about the RSO, visit one of their many social media pages, found in their Linktree at linktr.ee/uwtbsu or send an email to email@example.com