New study shines light on flaws of justice system

By Thomas Hair
Online Copy Editor

A recent study conducted by a pair of university institutes, University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, reported that well over 2,000 people in the past 23 years have been exonerated from prison after being convicted of serious crimes. This study is the most complete compilation of American exoneration to date.

On average, each wrongfully convicted prisoner was held in jail for 11 years. Of the over 2,000 exonerations, 873 were homicide cases and 101 were death sentences. If one crunches the numbers, they will find that the United States justice system is forced to free almost 100 innocent prisoners every year, most of which have spent over a decade locked up.

The shocking findings of studies such as these expose the fact that our justice system is riddled with problems. Far too often, the court seems eager to put people away, as prosecutors withhold evidence or distort the truth to prosecute people they know are innocent, just so they can meet a quota. That fact that so many people are going to prison every year without a cause means something is clearly amiss during the process of deciding who goes to jail.

The United States must do something, whether it is requiring DNA tests in every serious case or punishing dishonest prosecutors, to alter the disturbing trend of the present.

The new data also sheds some much-needed light on the barbaric nature of Capital Punishment. In the past two decades alone, 101 individuals have been wrongly sentenced to death by the system only to be exonerated after many miserable years. If this many are exonerated yearly, one must also wonder how many lives are similarly wrongly convicted but not exonerated in time. The thought of it is mortifying. The new data provided by the Universities of Michigan and Northwestern is yet another testament to our need to do away with such inhumane methods of criminal punishment.

As reports such as this one make more people aware of the inadvertent horrors that commence every year in our courthouses and prisons, the United States will hopefully begin a gradual shift towards joining the rest of the civilized world in doing away with state-sanctioned murder and the prosecution of innocents.