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Director of Policy

Innocence Project

Innocence Project

Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2023


The Innocence Project works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone. Our work is guided by science and grounded in anti-racism. Since our inception, the Innocence Project has used DNA and other scientific advancements to prove wrongful conviction. To date, we have helped to free or exonerate more than 200 people who, collectively, spent more than 3,600 years behind bars. Our efforts have led to the passage of more than 200 transformative state laws and federal reforms. Today, the Innocence Project continues to fight for freedom, drive structural change, and advance the innocence movement. To learn more, please visit www.innocenceproject.org.


The Director of Policy leads the Innocence Project’s advocacy agenda to ensure that the criminal legal system is equitable, accurate and reliable, and that state and federal law, policy, and practice do not compromise the quality of justice and lead to the conviction of innocent people. The Director of Policy is responsible for the overall management of a department of 11 full-time staff, as well as consultants with state-based lobbying firms, public relations firms and federal lobbyists. The Director of Policy is responsible for: a) developing department strategy and goals, b) managing department staff and budget to achieve those goals, c) reporting on progress toward goals to the Innocence Project’s board, funders, and staff, d) anticipating and acting on opportunities for growth in the Innocence Projects’ policy work, and e) modeling the Innocence Project’s values of an inclusive and respectful workplace and encouraging the same from staff.

The Director of Policy reports to the Chief Program Officer and also works closely with the Executive Director and the Co-Founders.

All Innocence Project employees must embrace, respect and value the rich diversity of perspectives and experience of a diverse and heterogeneous staff. We recognize and appreciate that our work is better for having varied participants and thought partners.

We are interested in every qualified candidate who is eligible to work in the United States. However, we are not able to sponsor visas.

While the Innocence Project has supported remote work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently committed to a hybrid workplace with mandatory three days per week in-office. The number of required in-office days is subject to change.


The ideal candidate is dedicated to criminal legal system reform, social justice and anti-racism. They are an inclusive, collaborative, and people-centered leader with a deep knowledge of the U.S. criminal legal system.


  • In direct partnership with the CPO, participate in the Innocence Project’s strategic planning to define overarching organizational goals and in collaboration with senior leaders, create the vision and develop strategies for expanding the IP’s policy agenda to broaden impact on addressing wrongful convictions and the inequities in the criminal legal system.
  • Set annual departmental goals and track and monitor performance of staff towards achieving goals; enhance and encourage opportunities for personal and professional leadership development.
  • Manage federal advocacy strategies on appropriations, federal grant programs and other Congressional action on wrongful conviction-related issues and manage related lobbyist contracts.
  • Oversee, lead, or advise state-based legislative campaigns. Manage a team of advocates to initiate and lead state-level advocacy campaigns on priority issues (e.g. creating or amending statutory, executive order and court rule vehicles for post conviction innocence claims to be heard; pretrial justice reform, including discovery reform; eliminating the trial penalty; police & prosecutorial practice and accountability reforms; compensating the wrongfully convicted, etc.).
  • Serve as an organizational thought-leader on relevant criminal legal system policy issues, and act as a visible spokesperson for the Innocence Project in public forums, task forces, commissions, the press, and meetings.
  • Maintain an active leadership role at the Innocence Project, including regular collaboration with colleagues in other departments to achieve mutual goals and to further communication and cooperation.
  • Develop and nurture partnerships with external stakeholders, including policymakers, allied organizations, stakeholders, community organizations, Innocence Network organizations, racial justice organizations, etc. Build and/or work with varied and diverse coalitions at the state and local levels.
  • Liaise and provide strategic advice and support on policy initiatives to other Innocence Network organizations.
  • Develop and monitor the annual department budget.
  • Create strategies and messaging to identify and advance priority policy issues and identify opportunities for broad-based stakeholder and political support for such issues.
  • Coordinate and collaborate with staff, Innocence Network organizations, and external allies to plan and implement effective multi- disciplinary and integrated advocacy policy initiatives, involving a combination of policy, legal, communication, public education, and organizing strategies.
  • Prepare written materials in collaboration with the communications director, including action alerts, talking points, issues briefs, policy reports, op eds, and website content
  • Consult with policy subject matter experts, including directly impacted people, and facilitate their voices being heard by decision makers at the federal, state and local level.
  • Analyze and track legislation, draft legislation and amendments, and prepare and deliver written and oral testimony.


  • Advanced degree in law, public policy or a related field.
  • 15+ years of relevant professional experience.
  • Minimum eight years of experience directing successful issue-oriented state-based lobbying and/or advocacy campaigns ideally in a nonprofit legal organization.
  • Minimum five years of managing staff; a successful track record as a unifying team builder who inspires collaboration.
  • Demonstrated ability to engage effectively in strategic planning and to set priorities and goals. Ability to think broadly and conceptually.
  • ​​Exceptional vision to build a strategic, integrated advocacy program through a broad range of short- and long-term political and lobbying tactics.
  • Understanding of the state and federal legislative process, political strategic planning, and the ability to build respectful relationships across the political spectrum.
  • Experience using an array of strategies for change, including advocacy, research, policy reform, litigation, and strategic communications; an appreciation of the value of social media for leveraging social justice.
  • Deep knowledge of the U.S. criminal legal system. Familiarity with post conviction procedure preferred.
  • Must be legally authorized to work in the U.S.


  • Passionate and demonstrated commitment to criminal legal system reform, social justice, anti-racism, and equity and to the Innocence Project’s goals, mission, and values.
  • Collegial, collaborative management style and demonstrated commitment to the value and power of teams and staff; ability to delegate and prioritize multiple responsibilities and inspire teams to meet high expectations.
  • Ability to work with multidisciplinary staff in a collaborative, productive, and fast-paced work environment.
  • Strong relationship builder. Able to work effectively and diplomatically with lawmakers, police officials, judges and partner organizations.
  • Excellent analytical skills, particularly as they relate to policy and legislation.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills; a strong public presence.
  • Leadership grounded in accountability, humility, and empathy.
  • A management style that is open and consultative with a focus on team building and creating a culture of belonging and inclusion.
  • Ability to listen, communicate effectively, coach, shepherd, and support people to achieve shared goals.
  • Ability to remain organized amidst multiple competing demands.
  • Experience with developing and managing a budget.
  • Must be able to work with groups of diverse individuals in respectful, equitable, and inclusive ways.
  • Enthusiasm for the work of the Innocence Project and for social justice, including a demonstrated commitment to public interest
  • Shares in the IP’s values of accountability, collaboration, empathy + compassion, equity, person-centeredness, quality focus, and self-awareness


The salary for this position is highly competitive and the Innocence Project offers an excellent benefits package, including fully-paid individual health, dental and vision insurance, Flexible Spending Account, 401k plan with 6% company-match, paid disability and family care leave, adoption and fertility expense reimbursements, and company-paid transportation benefits.


The Innocence Project considers the diversity of its workforce to be vital to our organization’s success in meeting its mission. We strongly encourage applicants from all cultures, races, educational backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic classes, sexual orientations, age, gender, and physical abilities to apply. Individuals with personal connections to the criminal legal system are strongly encouraged to apply.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, it is our policy not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, familial status, marital status, predisposing genetic characteristics, actual or perceived domestic violence victim status, unemployment status, caregiver status, or any other category protected by law.


To apply, please visit JazzHR. Upload a cover letter expressing your interest in the role and the organization’s work, and a resume titled with your name (last name. first name. cover letter/resume). Only applications with cover letters will be considered complete applications. Information submitted through this secure site is kept confidential. Due to the large volume of applications, we are unable to give applicant updates by phone or direct email.

**Applications for this position will be considered on a rolling basis until the post is filled.**