Updated: Aug 7, 2019
As of this writing, there have been 2,472 individuals exonerated for crimes they did not commit. That means these individuals were convicted, incarcerated, and given a criminal record, yet were innocent. If you total all of the years those individuals lost, it equals 21,725 years lost to their lives, their families, their careers. (The National Registry of Exonerations: http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/about.aspx)
How can this happen? Why are innocent people still incarcerated for crimes they did not commit? Why are innocent people charged, convicted, and imprisoned in the USA?
A judicial system that incentivizes informants, provides inadequate defense, misapplies forensic science, permits government misconduct, allows false confessions or admissions, and does nothing to correct eyewitness misidentification will, inevitably, prosecute, convict and incarcerate innocent individuals.
A judicial system that targets brown and black bodies in disproportionate numbers (relative to the overall US population) will continue to convict and incarcerate brown and black bodies in those same disproportions.
"We have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent."
Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative: www.eji.org)
At current levels of incarceration, a black male in the United States today has more than a 1 in 4 probability and a black female 1 in 18 of going to prison during their lifetime. A Latino male has a 1 in 6 chance and a Latina woman 1 in 45. A white male, by contrast, has a 1 in 23 and a white woman 1 in 111 chance of serving time. (The Sentencing Project: www.sentencingproject.org/)
How do we bring about change? Fortunately, each of us does not have to reinvent the wheels of justice because there are folks dedicated to both freeing innocent people who remain incarcerated and bringing reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment. The Innocence Project's mission is to 1. exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals; 2. improve case law; 3. implement policies that prevent wrongful convictions; 4. and support exonerees as they rebuild their lives. (The Innocence Project: https://www.innocenceproject.org/about/)
These organizations require our support and funding to continue their work. Please visit their sites, join their efforts, and help them bring about change in our nation and your community.