Wrongful Convictions

March 18, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 8
Can the U.S. reduce the number of people falsely imprisoned?
By Barbara Mantel


More than 3,000 wrongfully convicted individuals have been exonerated since 1989, having collectively served more than 26,700 years in prison. In addition to the damage wrongful convictions cause to the falsely imprisoned, they also allow the true perpetrator to commit additional crimes. Dozens of states have adopted reforms aimed at preventing wrongful convictions, which usually result from false confessions, faulty or misleading forensic evidence or mistaken eyewitness identification. Some states have also made it easier for convicted people to access DNA testing, if appropriate, to help prove their claims of innocence. In recent years, a robust movement has emerged to exonerate the innocent, but their lawyers say most false convictions go uncorrected. To fix the problem, they say, forensic science must be improved, and police officers and prosecutors should be held more accountable for official misconduct. States should also compensate exonerated individuals more generously, advocates say. Forensic scientists defend their practices, and law enforcement officers say they need to be protected from frivolous lawsuits.

Photo of former prisoner Kevin Strickland in Cameron, Missouri, on November 23, 2021. (Getty Images/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service/Tammy Ljungblad)
Kevin Strickland was released from a Missouri prison in November after 43 years when a judge set aside his conviction for a triple murder he maintains he did not commit. More than 3,000 wrongly convicted people have been exonerated since 1989. Dozens of states have adopted reforms to prevent such convictions. (Getty Images/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service/Tammy Ljungblad)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Criminal Sentencing
Mar. 18, 2022  Wrongful Convictions
Nov. 05, 2004  Sentencing Debates
May 10, 2002  Three-Strikes Laws
Feb. 12, 1999  Plea Bargaining
May 26, 1995  Mandatory Sentencing
Jul. 22, 1994  Crime Victims’ Rights
Jun. 14, 1974  Plea Bargaining
Feb. 13, 1937  Probation, Reformation, and Parole
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights: African Americans
Congress Actions
Crime and Law Enforcement
Criminal Law Procedure and Due Process
Death Penalty
Domestic Issues
Federal Courts
Freedom of Information
Freedom of Speech and Press
Legal Professions and Resources
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Sentencing and Corrections
Supreme Court History and Decisions