An important step was made last week in moving forward to ensure that prisoners throughout the nation have access to post-conviction DNA testing. Last week, Governor Mike Rounds signed a bill making South Dakota the 45th state to enact a law explicitly granting inmates access to DNA testing that can prove innocence. The Innocence Project collaborated with allies in South Dakota to advise elected officials of the need for this statute and urge passage of the legislation.
Despite the widespread acceptance of DNA testing as a powerful and reliable form of forensic evidence that can conclusively reveal guilt or innocence, many prisoners do not have the legal means to secure testing on evidence in their case. The Innocence Project is working to establish the right to post-conviction DNA testing in the five remaining states without access laws: Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
Even in many of the states that grant access to DNA testing, the laws are limited in scope and substance. Some states have passed statutes that include barriers to testing that are insurmountable for most prisoners.
The domestic criminal system reform movement is lucky to have those working hard over at The Innocence Project. Their work with people from across the criminal justice system leads me confident that we are taking steps closer to meaningful reform.
Interested in learning more? Check out the blog of The Innocence Project here.