Date of Award
Master of Arts
Dr. Whitney DeCamp
Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten
Dr. Zoann Snyder
Wrongful conviction, innocence movement, service learning, program evaluation, experiential learning
Masters Thesis-Open Access
The Western Michigan University Wrongful Conviction Program (WCP) operated under a grant awarded by the Department of Justice (DOJ) from 2015 through 2018. The WCP partnered with the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project (WMU-CIP) to assist in the screening, review, and investigation of claims of innocence. The WCP trained undergraduate students to conduct case investigations and supported WMU-CIP in several ways.
The evaluation presented here examines the activities of the WCP to understand the ways in which it achieved its intended goals, as well as the ways in which it impacts participating students and the innocence movement. To evaluate the WCP, the evaluation examines semi-annual progress reports, student interviews, and the protocols and practices of the program.
The results of the evaluation indicate that the WCP made significant impacts on the experiences of undergraduate students involved in the program and encouraged students to engage in a service-learning opportunity. Throughout the duration of the program, the WCP and WMU-CIP reviewed over 900 case files and spent over 8,800 hours reviewing these cases. Several cases conducted evidence searches and DNA tests to obtain support for innocence claims. The efforts of the program contributed to at least one exoneration. The program also made impactful efforts to facilitate the innocence movement by engaging in public outreach through community events and press releases to spread awareness of wrongful conviction.
Chlebek, Ashley M., "The Wrongful Conviction Program: A Program Evaluation" (2019). Master's Theses. 5094.