Centurion was the first innocence organization in the world. Jim McCloskey established Centurion as a 501(c)3 organization in 1983 after the exoneration of Jorge De Los Santos.
In 1980, Jim McCloskey, Centurion’s founder, felt the call to leave the corporate world and enter the ministry. While attending Princeton Theological Seminary, Mr. McCloskey chose to serve for a year as a student chaplain at the Trenton State Prison. There, he met Jorge De Los Santos, who was convicted of murder and serving a life sentence. Mr. De Los Santos claimed to be innocent of the crime, and after reviewing the case record, Jim came to believe him and decided to help him.
After reading the entire record of Mr. De Los Santos’ case, Jim spent his personal time and savings to investigate the case. After several years of investigation and legal proceedings, Jim, in partnership with attorney Paul Casteleiro got Mr. De Los Santos’ conviction overturned. Mr. De Los Santos was exonerated and freed from prison in 1983.
After Mr. De Los Santos’ exoneration, Mr. McCloskey received requests for help from others who claimed they were wrongfully convicted. He made the choice to dedicate his life to freeing the innocent, and founded the first innocence organization in the world.
To date, Centurion has freed 63 men and women who were serving life or death sentences for crimes they did not commit.
Centurion was the first organization in the world established to free the wrongfully incarcerated. Since our founding in 1983, the innocence movement has grown as has the number of organizations fighting for justice across the country. Many of these organizations are based in law schools, and utilize law students to develop cases. By and large, they work on wrongful convictions that rely on DNA results to prove innocence.
Centurion is distinct in that we primarily take on cases where DNA is not available to prove our clients’ innocence. While we will take cases with a DNA component, the majority of our cases require a complete re-investigation of the case in the community where the crime took place. We provide investigative and legal support free of charge to all of our clients.
A natural extension of freeing our clients is providing post-release support. Often working with our volunteer social worker, Centurion connects exonerees to services in their local communities that can help them secure jobs, housing, and medical and psychological care. We also reach out to our family of exonerated clients to offer mentorship and support to the newly exonerated, and link them with someone they can talk to who truly understands their experience. As needed, Centurion provides exonerees with financial support to help them pay for food and personal items, travel and medical expenses, and housing costs.
Our justice system is an adversarial system and is designed to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent. It is not designed to fix a wrongful conviction, thus overturning a conviction is twice as hard as convicting someone. The conviction of an innocent person can happen for a variety of reasons: blind focus by police, misidentification, poor police investigation, prosecutorial misconduct, and fraudulent forensic experts to just list a few. While advances are being made to avoid convicting the wrong person, many people will remain wrongly imprisoned unless new evidence is found that could overturn their conviction. It is Centurion’s mission to seek out those factually innocent and work to free them. Your generous donation is greatly appreciated.
Jorge De Los Santos was a Newark, NJ car salesman who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975. Jim McCloskey met Mr. De Los Santos while serving as a student chaplain at Trenton State Prison and came to believe he was innocent. After reviewing the entire record of Mr. De Los Santos’ case, Mr. McCloskey was convinced that Mr. De Los Santos was innocent and decided to help him. Mr. McCloskey spent his personal time and savings to investigate the case. After several years of investigation and legal proceedings, Jim McCloskey, in partnership with attorney Paul Casteleiro successfully had this conviction overturned July 1983. This set Jim on the path of freeing the innocent and founding Centurion 3 years later.
No. When our investigation causes us to lose confidence in the factual innocence of a client, we immediately drop the case. Centurion was wrong about the innocence of Roger Keith Coleman and five other cases in our history. None of those individuals were freed from prison.
No. Although Jim McCloskey founded Centurion out of a spiritual calling, Centurion has never been a religious organization. It is of no interest to Centurion if anyone associated with Centurion has a particular faith or any such inclination at all.
As for our name, Centurion is named after the Roman Centurion soldier who stood at the foot of the cross and proclaimed, “Surely this one is innocent”. Luke 23:47 RSV.
Centurion is an investigative organization that considers claims of factual innocence in rape and murder cases where an individual is serving a sentence of 15 years before they will be eligible for parole, or has been sentenced to death.
We do not take on accidental death, self defense cases, or cases where the defendant had any involvement whatsoever in the crime for which he/she was convicted.
All case inquiries must come in the form of a letter so that we may carefully review and answer them in a complete and efficient manner. Be sure to write legibly and include a full return address and allow 8 to 10 weeks for our reply. We read and respond to all letters. Click here to review how to submit a case.
In the kindest way possible: No Our office is not designed to handle huge volumes of phone calls or email; therefore, ALL case inquiries must come in the form of a letter from the inmate so that we may carefully review them and answer them in a complete and efficient manner. Write legibly and include a full return address. Allow 6 to 8 weeks for our reply. We will read and respond to all letters. Click here to review how to submit a case.
No! Our office is only so big! We can’t accommodate materials that we may not find pertinent to a case. We will request specific documents from you as it becomes necessary during case review.
In the kindest way possible, no. Centurion will only discuss cases with an inmate over the phone once we have taken them on as a client. Until that point, all communication must take place between Centurion and the inmate via written letter.
Click here to review the other innocence projects nationwide. It is our normal practice not to make referrals to attorneys or investigators. If you were convicted of child abuse or child sexual abuse, the NCADRC is a possible resource for this type of conviction.
Developed over the last 35 years, Centurion’s case selection process is designed to ensure that each request is carefully reviewed so that we can continue to make well-informed decisions and avoid mistakenly turning someone away. Individuals who fit our criteria for support may request our help by sending a letter outlining the facts of their case. Centurion’s team communicates directly with the inmate to learn: (1) the crime they were convicted of; (2) a brief description of the facts of the crime; (3) the evidence used to arrest and to convict them; (4) the evidence that points towards innocence; and (5) who they were at the time of their arrest and who they are now.
Our Case Development Team reviews all letters and decides which ones to assign for further development. Case Development is labor-intensive work that requires thousands of man-hours each year. Centurion is fortunate to receive support from ~25 skilled volunteer case workers who dedicate their time to communicating with inmates to compile a comprehensive record and analysis of the facts of their cases. This includes police reports, trial transcripts, medical examiner’s reports, witness statements, photos of the crime scene, etc. Once fully developed, cases are reviewed by Centurion’s leadership. Based on the obtainable evidence and viability of available legal avenues, decisions are made on next steps.
Also see our ABOUT US page.
On average, Centurion manages approximately 20-25 cases at a time. We generally take on 1-2 new cases every year. Each year, we receive more than 1,000 new requests for support from inmates who claim they are innocent. Our volunteers are actively developing approximately 100 cases at a time.
No, Centurion is not associated with a college or university.
Centurion does not charge for any of our services.
It costs an average of $350,000 to free an innocent person from prison. Your donation allows us to pursue justice for the wrongfully incarcerated at no cost to the person or his/her family. You also enable us to provide invaluable post-release support services to help the men and women we free get on their feet following decades of wrongful incarceration. Thank you!
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There’s no limit to the books, studies, and essays one should seek out in order to understand wrongful convictions. New information is coming out all the time; however, we do have a few books we’d suggest you consider: Click here to view a short list of suggested reading.
The backbone of this organization is the volunteer staff. We simply could not digest the volume of requests we get without their help. Please check our Volunteer page to learn about current volunteer and internship opportunities.