It was only a few months ago that the former Downstate Illinois Innocence Project expanded its focus statewide and became the Illinois Innocence Project. Adding partners at the three public law schools in Illinois – NIU, UIUC and SIU, the Innocence Project needed a big influx of cash to fund its supercharged mission of working to exonerate inmates who didn’t actually commit crimes. The project – based at the University of Illinois Springfield – announced last week that the U.S. Department of Justice has renewed an important two-year grant of $547,000 that allows it to examine DNA evidence in such cases originating in northern Illinois. A similar grant received in 2010 allowed the project to address cases with DNA evidence originating in the rest of the state. Larry Golden, a co-founder and current executive director of the project, says the project will soon roll out a monthly contribution option for supporters, he says, adding that the federal grant only provides about half of the funds needed. “Each dollar goes towards helping the project to gain release of those in prison for serious crimes they did not commit and to bring change to a system that allows the innocent to so easily be convicted and remain in prison despite evidence of their innocence,” Golden says. Visit uis.edu/innocenceproject for more information.