30/09/2021: The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty
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Washington, D.C. – The Cato Institute has announced that the Innocence Project will receive the 2021 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, a $250,000 biennial award presented to a group or individual who has made a significant contribution to advancing human freedom.
In 1992, attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld introduced the Innocence Project as a legal clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Scheck and Neufeld believed that if DNA technology could prove people guilty of crimes, it could also prove the innocence of those who had been wrongfully convicted.
Since then, the Innocence Project has freed 232 people who were incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, with 192 of those turning on DNA evidence.
“I can think of no organization that has done more to demonstrate the need for criminal justice reform by digging into these cases and proving that wrongful conviction is not one or two isolated incidents but the result of defects that are more widespread,” said Peter Goettler, president and CEO of the Cato Institute.
In 1987, Scheck, Neufeld, and their team of students at Cardozo Law School attempted to use DNA testing to reverse the conviction of Marion Coakley, who had been convicted of rape and robbery. The DNA tests were inconclusive, and the team was later able to prove Coakley innocent through other means. By working on Coakley’s case, Scheck and Neufeld realized the potential of DNA technology to reverse wrongful convictions.
“The Innocence Project is honored to receive the Milton Friedman Prize in recognition of our work freeing and exonerating the wrongfully convicted and working to reform the inequitable systems responsible for their unjust imprisonment,” said Christina Swarns, Executive Director of the Innocence Project. “Over the past thirty years, we have harnessed the extraordinary power and potential of science — DNA — to prove innocence, advance human freedom and reform the criminal legal system. We are proud to have exonerated more than two‐​hundred people and advanced critical legal and policy reforms that prevent future wrongful convictions. We are deeply grateful to the Cato Institute for this profoundly important recognition and support.”
Established in 2002 and presented every two years, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is the leading international award for significant contributions toward advancing individual liberty.
The prize will be presented during a dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C. on September 30, 2021. Journalist George Will will deliver the keynote address.
Previous winners include Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a Cuban dissident group; Danish journalist and free speech advocate Flemming Rose; former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Poland, Leszek Balcerowicz; Chinese economist Mao Yushi; Iranian writer and journalist, Akbar Ganji; leader of a Venezuelan pro‐​democracy movement, Yon Goicoechea; former Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar; property rights reformer Hernando de Soto; and the late British economist Peter Bauer.

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