When Melanie Hammet was first called to volunteer at the Georgia Innocence Project, she was willing to do anything to help, including cleaning the bathrooms. Soon, she began coming in every week to assist with casework. When she heard the team talking about needing a creative solution to help spread Georgia Innocence Project’s (GIP) message, Hammet jumped on the opportunity.
She met with Clarence Harrison, exonerated after 18 years in prison, intending to write a song that told Harrison’s story of wrongful conviction. Over the next two years, that first conversation inspired 13 original songs, a CD, ongoing live performances and a team of volunteers producing events and selling volunteer-designed merchandise.
”Life Sentence,” the music project Hammet created to raise public awareness and funds for GIP, presents an innovative fundraising platform for a donation-based nonprofit legal aid organization and provides a unique opportunity to share GIP’s message. The Georgia Innocence Project is a nonprofit that advocates for the use of DNA testing to free the wrongly imprisoned and advances practices to prevent others from meeting a similar fate.
Hammet’s music and compelling storytelling bring attention to wrongful incarceration, transforming it from a dry legal issue into a human one that hits much closer to home.
To date, the project has raised more than $70,000 for GIP, including $20,000 in in-kind donations, and produced an album for GIP to sell at a 100 percent profit. The song “DNA” was licensed for Robert Redford’s series “Death Row Stories.”