The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!
From the 12th Annual Shorty Awards

Free innocent people from prison

Entered in Non-Profit, Instagram Presence


Our goal is to use Instagram’s visual platform to document the stories of people who were incarcerated for crimes they did not commit; grow support for advocates who will speak up for clients who are wrongly imprisoned or scheduled for execution; and change policy that will prevent future wrongful convictions. 

Strategy and Execution

Our Instagram community is one of the most engaged audiences in our social media following,  therefore we are selective about the images and stories we tell there. Our followers are often the first to jump in when we need them to take action and contact lawmakers or share critical news updates. We see our content in the following buckets: breaking news, advocacy, cultural moments, and historical moments. 

When we have breaking news, we keep our audience updated on exonerations, major updates in a client’s case, or a landmark decision related to criminal justice reform. When our client Rafael Ruiz was exonerated in January, we Instagram Lived the hearing from the courtroom. 

For advocacy, we connect our followers through direct links to call their state lawmakers or we suggest tagging friends in the relevant state where we are pushing our campaign. We also encourage our audience to share our posts to their own Instagram story. The best example of this was the campaign to stop the execution of our client Rodney Reed where we shared key facts about his case for innocence and relied on followers to share his case, tag friends in Texas, and make direct calls to Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, each of which could ultimately stop his execution. 

Cultural moments provide us with a way to incorporate our work directly into up and coming projects in news and entertainment. We stay on top of relevant media related to wrongful convictions like promoting the film Just Mercy and the miniseries When They See Us, and the real people they portray. Since the Innocence Project played a role in exonerating Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, and Yusef Salaam (the Exonerated Five), we prepared a campaign sharing their case and life experiences since their exoneration, which coincided with the premiere of When They See Us in June. The series was viewed on over 26,000,000 Netflix accounts within the first month, and our Instagram played a role in connecting new followers from the series to the exonerees they saw portrayed, historical context for the case, and a community of people committed to preventing wrongful convictions. 

Historical moments we share include the anniversaries of our clients on the day they were freed or exonerated. This is an important recognition for our clients and their families, a chance to highlight the factors that led to their wrongful convictions and update our audience on their life since they were exonerated. Other moments include remembering our clients on the day of their death or in cases like Ledell Lee or Troy Davis, who were executed without a chance to prove their innocence. These stories are important to keep alive and have a powerful impact on our followers. 


Above everything else, our Instagram community played an invaluable role in stopping the execution of our client Rodney Reed. All the investment and energy we have put into our Instagram paid off, as we clearly saw from the outcry and global advocacy for Rodney. 

Over 110,000 people signed on to help his campaign through and made 8,400 phone calls to Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The majority of these advocates were from Instagram. 

Over the last year, we have doubled the size of our audience to 206,000 people who have made over one million engagements and taken 33,000 actions. Our posts have garnered over 16,000,000 impressions.

The Innocence Project’s Instagram continues to be a source of inspiration, education, and action. And now, through Rodney’s case, we are energized to use our Instagram community to help more cases in need of urgent action. 


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Innocence Project


Entry Credits