Host an Innocence House Party
DNA exonerations expose the causes of wrongful convictions, and public awareness and citizen participation is essential in the movement towards ending these injustices. Whether you’re looking to educate, fundraise, or raise awareness, you can help free the innocent and prevent future wrongful convictions by hosting an event in your community. The following are some suggestions on how to host an Innocence Project of Florida House Party.
Step One: Invite your Guests
- Compile a list of friends, colleagues, co-workers, and associates that comprise your social network to invite and encourage them to invite others as well. Personally calling your guests to invite them is the best way to ensure a good turnout.
- If you choose to host an event that includes a speaker (see below), include on the printed or electronic invitations a suggested donation amount.
- If you are hosting a book party (see below), be sure to inform your guests well in advance so they have time to obtain and read their own copy.
- Obtain confirmations from your guests a few days prior to the event to remind them of the event and to get an accurate headcount.
Step Two: Choose a Book, Film, or Speaker
The Innocence Project of Florida generally welcomes the opportunity to share about our work, the men exonerated in Florida, and the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction. Keeping in mind that we are a small non-profit organization, we ask if an IPF staff member participates you raise enough money to cover our travel costs. If an exoneree also participates, we ask that you provide a modest honorarium to him.
Another way to educate and entertain your guests is to screen a film at the party or ask guests to read a book on the subject prior to the event. On our Books & Videos pages there are several excellent options. Remember if you link from our page to Amazon to purchase the book or video, a portion of the sale benefits IPF. A few books and videos you might consider are listed here.
- The Innocent Man – the first work of nonfiction by John Grisham tells the story of two men’s wrongful convictions and subsequent exonerations. It is available through Amazon.com.
- Actual Innocence – includes stories of actual cases, combined with broader context on the causes of wrongful convictions and efforts to reform the criminal justice system. It is available through Amazon.com.
- Picking Cotton – a dual-memoir written by the exonerated Ronald Cotton and the victim who misidentified him, Jennifer Thompson. It not only discusses the 1984 case that landed Cotton in prison and loaded Thompson with haunting guilt, but delves into the effects of eyewitness identification on both parties.It is available through Amazon.com.
- After Innocence – this 2005 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize-winning documentary focuses on seven men wrongfully imprisoned for decades and then exonerated through DNA evidence. The film follows their stories and their efforts to rebuild their lives after their exonerations. It is available on Netflix and for purchase through Amazon.com..
- Conviction – this 2010 film tells the true story of Betty Ann Waters, whose brother, Kenny Waters, was wrongfully convicted of murder and began serving a life sentence in 1983. The story follows Betty Anne’s journey towards proving her brother’s innocence with the help of the Innocence Project. It is available on Netflix and for purchase through Amazon.com.
- The Central Park Five – this Ken Burns film follows the five young, black and Latino men who were wrongfully convicted of rape and assault in 1989. The victim was brutally attacked and assaulted during a late night run in Central Park. The documentary discusses the case, the questions, and the emotions directly with the men of the Central Park Five. It is available for purchase through Amazon.com.
Step Three: Night of the Party
- Set up a table near the entrance with the “Stay Connected” sign-in sheets, contribution forms, and pens, as well as information about the Innocence Project of Florida, which can be downloaded here.
- Welcome your guests as they arrive and encourage them to sign up to stay connected and to discuss the materials you’ve provided.
- You should to consider providing light refreshments for your guests.
- Towards the end of the event, shift the conversation towards “what you can do.” Let your guests know that they can immediately begin helping exonerate innocent people and reforming the system to prevent injustice by making a contribution to IPF tonight.
Step Four: Follow Up
- Return guest sign-in sheets and contributions by mailing them to:
Or scan and email to Jackie Pugh
- Send follow-up emails to thank your guests for attending and contributing.
- Keep in touch after the party. Continue to seize opportunities to discuss what everyone can do to help raise awareness about DNA exonerations, wrongful convictions, and the mission of the Innocence Project of Florida.