Wrongful Convictions

Mr. and Mrs. Petros recently visited my political science class and shared with us the type of work that they do. In short, they discussed the work inherent to their organization, The Innocence Project—an establishment dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals. During this class, Mr. and Mrs. Petros shared some of the cases that they had dealt with where an innocent person had been serving time for crimes they did not commit. In each case that they shared, the innocent individual (wrongfully convicted) had already served a minimum of 10 years in lockup until the Innocent Project intervened (reopened their cases). This is what bothered me the most, because from what I understood in each case, the ‘convicted’ was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fact that this could happen to anybody is astounding; fortunately times have changed, and the emergence of DNA testing improved the efficacy of the system. Regardless, this still makes me think as to the number of people that have been wrongfully convicted and have had their lives ruined. The very thought that some have already spent multiple decades behind bars for crimes they did not commit is, in my opinion, despicable. We have all heard, more or less, about prison atmosphere and culture and what’s worse is that it has become an accepted norm. Its one thing to be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to several years behind bars, but then to be thrown into the pecking order of incarceration is reason enough to call for change. It makes you wonder how many lives have been ruined with wrongful convictions?  It seems that district attorneys seem to be more concerned with their conviction rates, than actually serving justice—knowing full well as to the type of impact prison can have on a person (especially if they could very well be innocent and/or a minor offender). While I understand that their job is not easy, they should be more diligent in their investigations to make sure that such mistakes do not happen in the future—these are people’s lives that we are talking about.


One thought on “Wrongful Convictions

  1. Manoj! There’s going to be much more fodder for outrage about this question in Alexander.

    But it’s important to think about the reasons why it happens – I think Alexander actually does a pretty good job of laying out how the drug war has created a series of really perverse incentives. It’s like the worst possible political unintended consequences story one can imagine.

    And most people want to succeed in their jobs, and surely prosecutors are no different. I honestly doubt most people who do things like this have any doubts that they are pursuing justice. They’ve seen things that would make most of our toes curl, and they work to make the world safer. But the question should always be ‘safer for whom?’ Again, Alexander has some solid insights into the ways that poor urban neighborhoods are easier to police than poor rural ones, and so even though the same behavior is happening in both, there are good reasons (or rather, practical) reasons to police one more heavily than the other.


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