Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi, executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law, sounds pumped about the $2.4 million federal grant the project is sharing to administer a massive new DNA testing program.
“It’s the biggest project of its kind in the country,” Ridolfi said. “This is really groundbreaking work.”
What is the PCDNATAP, and how does it get someone out of prison? After the jump.
The National Institute of Justice is funding the grant, which the NCIP is sharing with the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego.
The money for the 18-month program, called the Post-Conviction DNA Testing Assistance Program, will go toward hiring new staff at the NCIP, including four lawyers, two paralegals and a director. The Department of Corrections will help them identify inmates in forcible rape and non-negligent-homicide cases. Inmates who maintain their innocence and want their cases to be considered can send questionnaires to the NCIP in self-addressed envelopes.
If DNA results suggest inmates couldn’t have committed the crimes, staff at the two innocence projects will pursue the cases with the courts and local district attorney’s offices.
“People sometimes say, ‘If they’re innocent, they would have applied [already],’” Ridolfi said. “That’s not true. Inmates sometimes just give up and they don’t bother anymore. Or they’re limited in their ability to communicate in writing, or they don’t read very well. They don’t have the same access.”
— Kate Moser