Wrongful Incarceration: Which States Will Pay?

The number of innocent people in our nation’s jails and prisons keeps rising at an alarming rate. Those convicted wrongly also keep reclaiming their rights, revealing how the judiciary and law enforcement have become unreliable. Wrong eyewitnesses and false evidence are frequently used against the alleged offenders.

Spending time in prison while being innocent can traumatize everyone in that person’s close circle of family and friends. That is why it is best for the states to take full responsibility and restore the lives of those who were subject to wrongful incarceration.

Common Causes of Wrongful Convictions

Nothing happens without reason. Similarly, an accused can’t be subjected to wrongful incarceration if there were no factors behind it. Sometimes the court is in a hurry to conclude cases, hence making wrong convictions. Below there are some of the leading factors of wrongful incarceration in the U.S.A.

1. Faulty Forensics

Sadly, there are still erroneous forensic results despite technological advances globally. Despite that, many courts rely on inaccurate forensic results when coming with the final verdict.

Forensic results presented to the courts in the past years have seen most people remain behind bars. Errors occur during lab testing, such as DUI blood tests. Some other techniques that have led to erroneous verdicts include:

Tales like that of Anthony Ray Hilton, an Alabama man who spent nearly three decades on death row for two murders he did not commit, show that wrong forensic results are accurate. He was released after realizing that he was wrongly convicted because a forensics expert with one eye had carried the ballistics test.

2. Wrong Witnesses

Do you know that just a white lie by a witness might make an accused face a wrongful conviction? Yes, it’s possible. It has led to the unjust sentencing of many accused individuals in the past. Courts should do background checks on the witnesses before they testify in cases. If not, many innocent individuals will continue to remain behind bars.

3. Lawyers

Not all lawyers can be behind a wrongful conviction, but those who are overworked and underfunded often can. Those lawyers lack adequate resources to defend their clients. Additionally, incompetent lawyers, in some instances, can also contribute to wrongful incarceration.

Finally, different states have different policies and rules regulating how they store criminal evidence. Some states have strict rules regarding access to past evidence. That makes it difficult to prove someone’s innocence after a conviction has been completed.

Other states prohibit access to the files of past cases. As such, the wrongly convicted persons lack the means of getting themselves out of prison.

Do States Compensate for Wrongful Convictions?

If someone was wrongfully subjected to a sentence, the state must help bring that person’s life back to normal. People who have been wrongfully convicted will be compensated in various forms, including money.

The Do’s

As of now, 35 states do offer some compensation to the wrongfully convicted within their jurisdictions. Existing exoneree compensation laws include fixed monetary compensation depending on the time spent in prison, subsistence funds, job training, education access, counseling, healthcare, and housing. These states include:

The Don’t’s

Currently, there are still 15 states left that don’t have any compensation laws to make up for wrongful incarceration. These states include:


State and federal courts should be very keen when handling criminal cases to minimize wrongful convictions from occurring in the future.

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