A group of students and faculty on stage

Making an Exoneree Receives Grant from Department of Justice

A new $495,000 grant from the Department of Justice will allow the Making an Exoneree program to ramp up its support of wrongfully convicted people across the country.

The two-year grant funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, awarded on Oct. 1., aims to strengthen programs that support people claiming innocence post-conviction and to help prevent future wrongful convictions.

The grant will aid the program as it enters its sixth year in 2023. Since its inception, Georgetown undergraduates in the Making an Exoneree course have dedicated a spring semester to reinvestigating likely wrongful conviction cases. In small teams, students examine these cases and produce documentaries and social media campaigns that advocate for the release and exoneration of innocent people in prison.

The course is taught by PJI Director Marc Howard and his childhood friend Marty Tankleff, Georgetown’s Peter. P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professor, who was himself wrongfully incarcerated for almost 18 years before his exoneration. 

“Over the past five years, Making an Exoneree has proven that a small group of dedicated undergraduate students can make a big difference in the life of a wrongfully convicted person,” Howard said. “With this grant from the Department of Justice, the program will be able to solidify and expand on this important work to bring innocent people home from prison.”

In 2018, three students’ documentary helped exonerate Valentino Dixon, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 28 years. In 2021, Eric Riddick and Keith Washington were released after serving 29 and 13 years in prison, respectively. Most recently, Arlando “Tray” Jones III was released in July after having been incarcerated for over 37 years. 

The program has also prompted significant progress in several other cases and hopes to celebrate many more homecomings in the future. With the grant award, Making an Exoneree will be able to significantly bolster its wrongful conviction work, bring on new staff, conduct research and analysis, fund student travel, and expand its collaboration with outside experts and attorneys.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15PBJA-22-GG-03927-WRNG awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Making an Exoneree