Michigan Liberation and its broad base of formerly incarcerated individuals, families of those fighting wrongful convictions, and allied community members applaud the announcement made by Oakland County elected officials of the plans to create a Conviction Integrity Unit.
This announcement marks a win for the movement to end mass incarceration, and a win for all the family members and formerly incarcerated community members who have been advocating for their wrongfully convicted friends and loved ones. Michigan Liberation engaged heavily in the 2020 prosecutor race based on the calls from community members to change the culture in the former prosecutor’s office and move away from the status quo of tough on crime practices. Michigan Liberation decided to endorse Karen McDonald based on her campaign promise to enact the first-ever conviction integrity unit in Oakland County.
Since the successful election of Karen McDonald, members of Michigan Liberation have engaged in grassroots accountability efforts with the prosecutor’s office, the racial justice advisory task force, county commission, and other county officials to ensure that the changes promised were brought to fruition. Michigan Liberation conducted extensive research over the past months and held community conversations with experts from the Statewide Conviction Integrity Unit, Innocence Project and Innocence Clinic to learn what makes a conviction integrity unit work effectively.
Experts told the Michigan Liberation team that the most important factors are:
1) independence and maintaining the presumption of innocence
2) adequate funding and staffed office with multiple investigators and attorneys
3) transparency that will allow community members to see the progress the office has made.
Both Karen McDonald and the Chair of the Board of Commissioners, David Woodward, stated that they hope that this conviction integrity unit becomes a model for the country, a goal that can only be achieved through robust funding for the unit and effective implementation. Two members of Michigan Liberation’s Oakland County Core Team share their thoughts.
“The news of the announcement of a conviction integrity unit is so important and uplifting after decades of heartache and an uphill battle. It represents a chance for families to be reunited with their loved ones for the first time in decades, and justice for the wrongfully convicted,” Elizabeth DeJesus said in the press release.
Michigan Liberation is excited about the announcement, but will continue its efforts to campaign for an office that will be large, robust and sustainable in its purpose of seeking justice for the wrongfully convicted and marking a positive culture change in the Oakland County criminal justice system.