By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — The state of Minnesota has become the seventh state in the country to develop a conviction review unit to review potentially wrongful convictions.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and metro prosecutors announced the launch of a new unit on Tuesday that would review these convictions through a partnership with the Minnesota Innocence Project.

The partnership, funded by a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Justice Department, will be the first of its kind in the state to review the cases of people imprisoned for crimes they may not have committed.

The new unit will also attempt to determine frequent causes of wrongful convictions to prevent such cases and potentially identify who actually committed the crime in some cases.

“I think some would say we are at a crisis point with faith in our criminal justice system,” the program’s director Carrie Sperling said. “A lot of people have lost faith that we can actually deliver justice and that we can uncover injustices and correct them, so it’s important that we have the support of the community behind us in trying to restore that faith.”

Sperling added that it’s not enough to overturn a wrongful conviction. She says we must learn what went wrong and how to correct mistakes in the future.

Incarcerated individuals who believe they have been wrongfully convicted or face an unjust sentence can apply now to have their case reviewed. Information is available at all libraries inside Minnesota’s state prisons.

Ellison’s office said such units have helped clear more than 400 people in the U.S. who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Dozens of other units exist nationwide, though Minnesota will be the fourth state whose unit functions through the attorney general’s office.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, prosecutors for the state’s two largest counties, will work with the new unit on cases in their districts.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Reg Chapman