A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Innocence Files is a docuseries about people who were wrongfully convicted and then later exonerated for major crimes. Descriptions of brutal violence are frequent (including the rape and murder of a child), and images of injuries and other forensic evidence are visible. Drug use is discussed, and smoking and drinking is sometimes seen. There is some strong language, including the use of "s--t" and "f--k." The Innocence Project is the non-profit legal organization that leads the investigations into wrongful convictions and helps get them overturned. The need for criminal justice reform is a major theme throughout the series, and it particularly highlights the racial disparity that contributes to injustice.
What's the story?
THE INNOCENCE FILES is a nine-part documentary series about prisoners who were released after having their wrongful convictions overturned with the help of non-profit legal organization The Innocence Project. It features eight different people who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to long-term incarceration thanks to faulty evidence, problematic witness testimony, and flaws in the overall prosecution of their cases. Lawyers break down each individual case, explaining what was (and wasn’t) mishandled before, during, and even after their clients’ trials. Archival images, evidentiary recordings, and interviews with forensic scientists, witnesses, and others connected to each case fill out additional details, and highlight the conditions that contributed to the defendants’ inability to be fairly tried. The obstacles that The Innocence Project had to overcome to get their clients exonerated are also discussed.
Is it any good?
This revealing true crime series takes a comprehensive look at the flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system through the eyes of people who were wrongfully convicted, and later exonerated, of a serious crime. By putting a face to each legal narrative, The Innocence Files transforms each case file into a human interest story that personalizes the tragedy of an innocent person spending years in prison for a crime he or she didn’t commit. It underscores the need for criminal justice reform by revealing that many defects in the system that resulted in wrongful convictions decades ago continue to persist. These especially highlight historic racial and ethnic biases that make it difficult for Black and Latino individuals to receive fair trials. It’s hard not to be disturbed by some of the stories featured here, but they serve as a testament to the fact that until reform happens, we are not all treated equally under the law.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about former prisoners profiled in The Innocence Files. What made their cases stand out among others who claim they were wrongfully convicted? What did these individuals have in common?
Is it necessary for TV crime documentaries to share graphic violence? Do viewers need this information to understand the case in question? When do these descriptions go from being informative to being sensational?
Does this series spark any interest in working in the justice system? Why or why not?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love true crime
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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