Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Criminal Justice

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 146 pages) : 1 color illustration.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

James R Acker

Committee Members

Robert J Norris, Allison D Redlich, Cynthia J Najdowski, Alissa Pollitz-Worden


innocence, innocence organizations, intake, policy diffusion, wrongful convictions, Judicial error, Vindication, Post-conviction remedies, Social advocacy, Legal assistance to prisoners

Subject Categories

Criminology | Law


Innocence organizations contributed to 45% of exonerations in the year 2020, and account for nearly 25% of all U.S. exonerations. Yet little is known about these organizations, including a review of their intake criteria and procedures, how they select their intake criteria and procedures, or how those choices influence the landscape of known wrongful convictions. The contents of these intake decisions as well as how they are chosen have implications for what is currently known about wrongful convictions nation-wide. In this study, 19 innocence organizations represented by 24 innocence organization staff and leaders completed qualitative interviews to address this gap in the literature. Findings indicate that though both intake criteria and procedures vary across organizations, rationales for the adoption of intake criteria and procedures appear to be based on a number of factors, including how pursuing a case will impact other applicants and active caseloads, as well as a case’s likelihood of success. Implications and future directions in light of these findings are discussed.