Gabe Drapos – Civil Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal structure by which a person can have his property confiscated by the state, with only a suspicion of a crime as justification.  Victims of civil forfeiture don’t need to be charged with a crime and the funds confiscated by the program can legally be used by law enforcement, usually with no restrictions on its use.  This has created a negative feedback loop in which law enforcement officers are incentivized by shrinking budget problems to confiscate goods, with little oversight.  Moreover, since it’s a civil charge, victims are not afforded a lawyer; and most victims of civil forfeiture abuse are low income and minority populations who cannot otherwise afford one.  In 2010, $2.5 billion in assets were confiscated nationwide.  With no probable cause and nothing resembling due process.

That’s the problem.  The Impact solution is to build an Emergency Response System (ERS): a web application that will allow victims to report civil forfeiture abuse across the nation.  As the data set of abuse builds, we can introduce a better-informed argument, based on a vastly more complete understanding of who is being abused.  Since the data will include geographic tags, we can also route victims to those in their area who are looking to help: lawyers, political action entities and other non-profits.

Matt Kopko – Freeing the Innocent

Wrongful convictions are estimated at 0.5-5% today: in human terms that’s 700-7,000 people in NY and 11,000-110,000 nationally, with an outsized impact on minorities. Currently, organizations like the Innocence Project have only 6 staff attorneys, overburdened by the mere 300 active cases they can handle. They and others have freed 325 wrongly convicted people using DNA exonerations alone. But with costs of up to $800,000 cost per conviction reversal, the few attorneys their legal aides and volunteers alone can’t cut it. A major part of the issue is that most state bar associations actually deem contingency-based representation to be against the rules. Our solution will be to lobby the NYSBA to issue a clarifying rule that contingent-based fee representation is allowed if the compensation is in the form of a portion of state or federal proceeds paid to the victim as compensation for wrongful conviction. Charities cannot lobby for legislation, but NYSBA rules are not law. In the future, we hope to create infrastructure for counsel to take on exoneration cases and align incentives to reduce burden on non-profit organizations leading the charge today.

Sashti Balasundaram – Community Composting

Businesses and municipalities save money by diverting organic scraps into compost facilities instead of transport to landfills or incinerators. Compost facilities offer and create twice as many jobs in comparison to landfill and incineration, and have the added benefits of improving plant growth, enhancing soil fertility, and reducing soil erosion. We Radiate is a full-service platform development of turnkey local compost facilities. Our team helps with both the science (proprietary ThermoSense compost monitoring devices + on-the-ground expertise) and the necessary consensus-building (in tandem with local community and policy leaders). Last year, WeRadiate diverted a record 20k lbs of discarded organics in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community alone.

Since the 2nd Impact Forum, We Radiate launched its new website, which will include a hub for scientific, educational, and community resources, as well as a real-time database of ThermoSense metrics. The team plan’s to increase its client base to Long Island City, Queens and Greenpoint, and Brooklyn in the near term, and has also applied for a Community Compost Grant.

Today, IMPACT is working with WeRadiate to navigate 3 core strategic issues: (1) the development of a consistent value-based pricing structure for its products and services; (2) the continued development of its online resources to help ensure the success of individual compost facilities; and (3) the expansion of WeRadiate into larger residential and commercial use cases throughout New York City.