Nonprofit of the Week: Equal Justice Initiative

Organization: Equal Justice Initiative

Location: Montgomery, Alabama


Mission: The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Regions of Service: The U.S.

About the cause: The Equal Justice Initiative addresses a number of injustices in the criminal justice system.

Simply put, the death penalty system treats you better if you are rich and/or white, and you are more likely to die for a crime that you did not commit if you are poor and/or black, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

In the U.S., 165 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973, but 1,512 people have been put to death since then. For every nine people executed on death row, one of them has been exonerated, pointing to a flawed system.

In 2018, 111 exonerations involved witnesses who lied on the stand or falsely accused the defendant. In 50 of those 111 cases, the defendant was accused of a crime that never took place.

Racial injustice plagues the justice system. The EJI found that data shows that 87% of black exonerees from death row were victims of misconduct in the legal process, as compared to 67% of their white counterparts.

About EJI:

The Equal Justice Initiative was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate and Delaware native. Stevenson is the best-selling author of the no. 1 New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy” – now a major motion picture.

This 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization’s over 150 staffers focus on communities that are affected by poverty and unequal treatment by the criminal justice system. The EJI strives to disrupt the narrative around race in the U.S. by addressing the nation’s legacy of racial injustice.

What they do:

The EJI provides legal representation and services to people who have been illegally convicted, unjustly sentenced, or abused in jails or prisons. The organization challenges excessive punishment including the death penalty and represents inmates on death row. They also provide reintegration support to formerly incarcerated people.

The EJI research contributes to policymakers’ push toward criminal justice reform. In its 30 years of existence, the EJI has produced groundbreaking reports, discussion guides, and short films. The nonprofit has also built new spaces that address the history of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation.

Impact:

The Equal Justice Initiative has served an undisclosed amount of people in their vast work with clients and dedication to educating the public.