The Innocence Club: The Push for Criminal Justice Reform


The Innocence Club

SHS students partnered with the Exoneration Initiative helping spread awareness of wrongfully convicted people in jail.

Mykaela Madoff

It is no secret that the American criminal justice system is a broken one. Thousands of wrongful convictions, undeniable systemic racism, and a flawed exoneration process leave far too many innocent people victim to sentences they didn’t deserve. We are taught to appreciate a country founded on the principles of integrity and freedom, yet with such obvious corruption so prevalent, we are left outraged and helpless. With these ideas in mind, Scott Goldban ’21 created the Innocence Club in his sophomore year at the high school, with the help of his co-leader, Levi Ring ’21. The club works to raise awareness on concerns pertaining to criminal justice reform, including mass incarceration, prison education, false imprisonment, and wrongful convictions. Goldban was inspired by organizations such as the Innocence Project and the Equal Justice Initiative, stating that once he was exposed to their work, “I knew that I’d found my passion and I haven’t looked back since.” 

The United States is home to less than five percent of the world’s population, yet makes up over twenty-five percent of the global incarceration count. Of those in prison, between two and ten percent of people are presumed innocent, depending on their location. Racial oppression is another pervasive issue in the criminal justice system. African Americans compose only about thirteen percent of the country’s population, yet constitute forty-nine percent of exonerees, illustrating how innocent people of color are arrested and convicted at much higher rates than white people. Minorities are additionally afforded far less compensation after their exoneration compared to white exonerees. Goldban commented, “Mass incarceration and wrongful convictions are really indicative of larger systemic racism plaguing our country,” a truth that can be applied to almost every existing aspect of American culture. The process of exoneration is also made more challenging by the thousands of legal restrictions in place, further enabling one of the greatest tragedies of the criminal justice system: The conviction of a person for a crime he or she did not commit. 

Leaders like Scott and Levi are the young advocates this country needs to curtail this corruption in the criminal justice system. By spreading awareness and working with other organizations to get more of the next generation engaged, the Innocence Club is creating new opportunities for future law officials at Scarsdale involved in the issue at an early age. The Club hopes to virtually follow an exoneration case in the coming months, an experience they hope will give better insight as to how lawyers work to defend the wrongfully convicted. They are an inspiration to me, and I’m proud to say I’ve gained a completely new perspective on our obviously flawed judicial system. New members are always welcome and encouraged to contact the group through their Instagram handle (@theinnocenceclub) or by emailing Scott or Levi.