Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) began when our founding director, Emily Bolton, was awarded a two-year fellowship from the National Association for Public Interest Law (now Equal Justice Works) in 2000 to review the cases of life-sentenced prisoners in Louisiana who may have been wrongly convicted but had no way of proving it from inside prison without a lawyer.
We incorporated as a two-person operation in 2001 and have since grown to be one of the most successful innocence projects in the country. We are one of the older innocence organizations in the United States and a founding member of the Innocence Network.
We are are a free-standing, n freon-profit law office (not a law school) with specialized full-time staff attorneys and investigators working cases from start to finish. We are supported by scores of law school and undergraduate student volunteers, all of whom help make it possible for us to provide the very best representation to innocent prisoners at no cost to our clients.
IPNO takes the hardest cases—cases that others are not equipped to. We devote the majority of our time and resources to freeing poor people who will otherwise die in prison for crimes they did not commit. Because healing from a wrongful conviction can take years, if not decades, we provide intensive support to our clients after their release. We use our cases to work toward changing laws, policies, and cultures that cause poor defendants to be wrongly convicted. More of Louisiana’s citizens encounter the criminal justice system than those of any other place in the world. We believe that wrongful convictions can be prevented in a smaller, more focused, accurate, and accountable criminal justice system.
IPNO has a national reputation for winning exonerations; both in cases where DNA can prove innocence and in more difficult cases where DNA does not exist or has been destroyed. The latter type of cases require hundreds of hours of traditional investigation to gather the evidence needed to exonerate an innocent prisoner.
Our work supporting our clients after they are freed and advocating for a smaller, fairer, more accurate and more humane criminal justice system has grown significantly in recent years. This work especially is made possible by a growing army of allies and advocates who raise the community’s awareness of the problem while raising money for our work and clients.
In 2014, with the generous support of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, we were able to buy and move into the building at 4051 Ulloa Street in New Orleans which is now the permanent home to IPNO’s staff and an expanding flock of feral chickens.
1. What products and services do you offer?
Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) frees innocent, life-sentenced prisoners, supports our clients living well and fully in the world after their release and advocates for sensible criminal justice policies that reduce wrongful convictions. As of March 2019, IPNO has freed or exonerated 34 innocent clients, who spent over 803 years in prison between them.
2. How long have you been in business?
IPNO was started in May of 2001, so this May marks 18 years.
3. How do people find you online?
4. What is lesser known about your business that you wish more people knew?
Not only do we free innocent people from prison, but we also support them living well and full in the world after their release. When someone comes home, we create Amazon wish lists for them, as most of the time they only have the clothes on their back, we create a fundraiser for them, we help them with medical appointments, and connect them with all sorts of resources to help them get jobs, start their own businesses, and get their lives back on track after the tragedy of a wrongful conviction.
5. Lagniappe Info.
IPNO is a free-standing, non-profit law firm. While we do sometimes work with other innocence projects around the country, we are not a chapter or affiliate of Innocence Project (a completely separate organization based in New York).