If the acronym ITCHY makes you uncomfortable, it’s supposed to do just that.

It Could Happen to You (yes, ITCHY) is a New York-based criminal justice reform non-profit dedicated to serving the needs of the falsely accused and wrongfully convicted. Their representatives were hosted by Siena for a November 16 awards luncheon.

Annie Rody-Wright, J.D., coordinator of Siena’s new criminal justice studies major who volunteers with ITCHY, helped organize the event. She introduced Alice Green, Ph.D., founder of Albany’s Center for Law and Justice, who presented the 2022 Ken Thompson Minister of Justice Award to retired City of Albany Chief of Police Brendan Cox. He is the first current or former police officer to receive the award.

“ITCHY was founded by individuals who were wrongfully prosecuted and convicted, and is dedicated to the cessation of wrongful convictions in this country,” said Rody-Wright. “Their passion and creativity have spurred legal changes in New York state and across the nation that have decreased the prevalence of wrongful convictions.”

She said those changes include New York's first-in-the-nation Prosecutorial Conduct Commission, which holds prosecutors accountable for illegal and/or unethical practices.  

Kyle Bissell '23, Mackenzie Farrell '23 and Kendra Godson '23, all students of Rody-Wright, attended the luncheon with their professor. Bissell and Godson are currently taking her Wrongful Conviction class; Farrell is enrolled in Restorative Justice. Students in the Wrongful Conviction class will be conducting community engaged research for ITCHY.

“Being in the presence of so many incredibly passionate individuals who wish to reform the criminal justice system and help those who have been wrongfully accused and/or convicted was awe inspiring,” said Godson. “I am hopeful for the future and the reforms that will be made, as I have seen firsthand how organizations such as It Could Happen to You and new policing tactics such as the Law Enforcement Accountability Network (LEAN) have already started to create the changes that so desperately need to be made.”

Farrell is planning to pursue a career in law enforcement, and was inspired by the award given to Chief Cox.

“His words on the evolving ideology within police departments gives me great hope for the future of both the police and the communities they serve,” she said. “Mentors such as Professor Rody-Wright continue to be instrumental in the lives of students through the ways in which they encourage critical thinking and promote a deeper understanding of what justice looks like and could look like in the future as well.”

“I remember being blown away by his perspective on undoing harm to those who have been negatively impacted by the criminal justice system. This, however, could not compare to learning from members of It Could Happen To You about how he ‘walks the walk.’ It was such a privilege to share space with such brilliant minds, humanitarian hearts, and fierce warriors, none of which would have been possible without Professor Rody-Wright. She is the reason I am able to be so appreciative of people like Mr. Cox as well as in awe of others who were in attendance.” 

Kyle Bissell '23

“Being falsely accused is an insidious injustice that occurs all too frequently, and erodes confidence in the public trust. Fighting injustices like these and learning to make the world more just, peaceful and humane are integral to a Siena education and we are proud to welcome this group to campus.” 

Siena President Chris Gibson '86, Ph.D.