After 21 years of struggle, including a long prison sentence, court battles and the daunting challenge of proving her innocence, Jane Dorotik, a California prison reform advocate, was exonerated, according to the Fire Inside newsletter.
Dorotik served 20 years in the women’s prison system of California before a court overturned her conviction in 2020. Following her release the battle continued for two years as she fought the San Diego district attorney’s attempts to retry her case despite the lack of evidence against her, said the article.
In her fight Dorotik received legal help from the Loyola Innocence Project. Now that she is exonerated and free, she serves as a policy advisor for the newly formed Los Angeles Innocence Project, where she continues to advocate for the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated.
“[I can] help steer what it is they’re attempting to achieve and how to help the formerly incarcerated,” said Dorotik of her new position. “I feel very strongly this is my life’s work going forward, to help expose the number of wrongful convictions and show how prevalent they are when people think they are such rarity, in order to prevent them from happening.”
The Los Angeles Innocence Project is a partnership between the Loyola Innocence Project and the Forensic Science Institute affiliated with Cal State Los Angeles, according to the article.
Dorotik is a longtime member of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, which is the parent organization of the Fire Inside. She never forgot the women she left behind and is unrelenting in her passion to advocate for all incarcerated women.
“It’s very clear to me that there’s no difference between me and them,” said Dorotik. “I’m factually innocent, but so are so many women in prison innocent of a lot of things; maybe not the one crime that sent them to prison, but they’re decent people and they deserve an opportunity to give back to society,” she added.
Dorotik said this is her “full circle” moment and why she continues to be an activist. Her purpose is to bring attention to the injustices that happen in the prison system.
“It is much larger than innocent or guilty … ultimately I ended up feeling like, who cares, innocent or guilty? … Everybody has done something in their life that they’re not proud of, that they wish they could go back and change, but that doesn’t define who they are,” she said.
“To have a system that says, ‘You did this terrible thing and the only solution is to put you behind bars for multiple years, and maybe we’ll let you out or maybe we won’t.’ You have to go in front of the parole board and prove to them that you’ve been rehabilitated. It struck me as so wrong,” she added.
Dorotik is an integral part of a campaign to close all of California’s women’s prisons. “It’s a matter of education for people to understand why this is a good step for society and how we can really help reduce mass incarceration. It’s going to benefit all of us,” she concluded.