It’s the second day of my 12 Days of Charitable Giving for 2020. Readers have suggested deserving charities over the past few weeks, and I’ll be posting the results here. Today’s charity is the Center On Wrongful Convictions Of Youth (CWCY).

The CWCY represents children and teenagers who have been convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Housing some of the world’s leading experts on interrogations and confessions, the CWCY and its sister project, the Center on Wrongful Convictions, have exonerated more than 50 individuals.

The CWCY spearheads national efforts to drive criminal justice reforms that will prevent children from making unreliable statements and coerced statements during policy interrogations. Unfortunately, false confessions of youth are not anomalies and there are hundreds of kids who need help.

In keeping with that mission, the CWCY is prominently involved in the case of Brendan Dassey. In 2007, Dassey, a special education student, was sentenced to life in prison based on a videotaped confession he gave at age 16 that is now widely understood to be false. Dassey is not eligible for parole until 2048, at which time he will be 59 years old. His clemency petition is supported by a broad local and national coalition that includes disability experts, law enforcement authorities, victim advocates, and educators. His case made national news as part of the Netflix series Making A Murderer.

Our nominator, however, didn’t hear about CWCY from Making A Murderer, but was influenced by another Netflix series. She was inspired to find out more about CWCY after watching When They See Us.

So how can you help? To make a donation, click over to the website.

If you prefer to send a check, please make checks payable to Northwestern University and write ‘Bluhm Legal Clinic’ in the memo line. Donations may be sent to:

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
28274 Network Place
Chicago, IL 60673-1282

Your contribution will:

  • give students strong litigation, negotiation, and transactional skills
  • provide students with opportunities to work on live client cases
  • offer high-quality legal services to underserved and disadvantaged clients
  • empower students to evaluate and propose reforms for laws and legal institutions
  • invest in the next generation of skilled, ethical, and reform-minded lawyers

For federal income tax purposes, if you plan to claim a deduction for a cash contribution, you’ll want to keep a record of the donation. Ideally, the organization will provide a written record with the name of the charity, date, and amount of the contribution.

And this year, don’t forget that taxpayers who make cash donations of up to $300 before December 31, 2020, are now eligible for a charitable deduction when they file in 2021 – even if they don’t itemize. As part of the CARES Act, the special $300 deduction is available to taxpayers who choose to take the standard deduction rather than itemizing their deductions.

Do your homework. As always, you want to make sure that your donation is going to a qualified charitable organization. A search using the IRS’ new Tax Exempt Organization Search (formerly Select Check) reveals that CWCY is not on the list. That’s because CWCY is part of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, which functions as part of Northwestern University School of Law. Northwestern is on the list as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Act which means that contributions to the CWCY are tax-deductible.

To find out more about the work of the organization, check out their website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

You can find out more about the work they do by checking out their YouTube channel or listening to their podcast.

Remember: Readers nominate their favorite charities to the 12 Days of Charitable Giving, and in most cases, I can’t personally vouch for the organizations. So be generous but be smart: Do your homework.

For more on making charitable donations, click here.

For other charities in the series, see:

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.

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