The Fantasy of Deterrence and the Medill Innocence Project

One of my prime annoyances is, that modern nations, contrary to the evidence, continue to claim that capital punishment is some form of deterrent to crime. Well I could go through the evidence for the millionth time that disproves this fantasy, but it is really not worth the effort as those that support this particular barbarism aren’t listening.

However, rather than criticise, here is some praise, for one effort against the death penalty, the Medill Innocence Project at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University Illinois. This project while not openly aiming to end capital punishment seeks to reduce its harm to society.

Professor David Protess in 1999 Founded the Medill Innocence Project which gives undergraduate Journalism students experience in investigating possible miscarriages of justice.

Protess and his journalism students have developed evidence that freed 10 innocent men, five of them from death row, since 1996.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan credited the Project’s investigations with helping provide the impetus for his moratorium on the death penalty in January 2000 and his subsequent decision to grant clemency to all death row inmates before leaving office in January 2003.

“A system that depends on young journalism students is flawed,” Ryan said in his speech granting the blanket clemency, during which he also praised Protess for being a teacher who has “poured his heart and soul” into helping his students free innocent men.

The Project is now part of the Innocence Network, a consortium of more than 30 journalism and law schools across the country, of which Protess is a founding board member.


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