On June 23, 2023, Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) Staff Attorney Sarah Pace spoke to an international audience of more than 150 people at Alcatraz as part of a newly formed partnership of the former federal penitentiary and NCIP.
“I was extremely humbled and honored to speak at Alcatraz. It is particularly poignant to speak about the issues of wrongful conviction and over-incarceration at a former prison—the very place that surely housed innocent folks and others wronged by the system,” said Pace. “It was also an amazing opportunity to get the word out about our work at NCIP to such a unique cross-section of the public.”
Alcatraz is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, with a mission to preserve, unimpaired, the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.
In recent years, Alcatraz has focused its programming on the state of mass incarceration in the United States, using its historic position to engage the public on social justice issues. Answering this call, the NCIP presentation—held the week of the Juneteenth holiday—aimed to educate listeners about NCIP through the lens of racial justice.
The presentation provided background on wrongful convictions and NCIP’s operations, but also touched on the history of systemic racism in the U.S. criminal legal system, sharing stories of some of the Black activists and lawyers who championed the innocence movement that NCIP is a part of today.
“People were visiting Alcatraz from all over the world,” Pace said. “I am so thankful that Alcatraz has provided NCIP with such a special and far-reaching platform to educate and engage others.”
The Alcatraz speaking engagement marks the first event in a partnership between NCIP and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Future events may include NCIP clients participating in the gardening program on Alcatraz Island, additional staff speaking engagements, and NCIP client participation in the Restorative Media Formerly Incarcerated Speaker Series.