How Many Innocent People are in Prison?

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Corrections
Tags: , ,

At the end of 2011, there were 1,598,780 people incarcerated in American prisons (Bureau of Justice Statistics), a total that does not include individuals detained in jails or other facilities awaiting trial or disposition of their case.

By the strictest definitions of guilt and innocence, 100% of these incarcerated offenders were adjudicated and are considered guilty in the eyes of the system. So, none of them are technically innocent.

However, there are a number of cases in which individuals sentenced to prison have later been shown not to have committed the offense for which they were convicted. According to the Innocence Project, 302 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989.

Here is a racial breakdown of those 302 exonerees:

188 African Americans
86 Caucasians
21 Latinos
2 Asian American
5 whose race is unknown

The causes of these wrongful convictions ranged from faulty eyewitness accounts to poor legal representation, and each one represents not only a tragedy for the individual, but also a huge failing of the justice system overall.

The Innocence Project also cites estimates that between 2.3 and 5% of incarcerated individuals are innocent. Based on the numbers of offenders incarcerated at the end of 2011, that would equate to between 36,000 and 80,000 innocents in prison.

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    I can not believe so many innocent people in prison through bad representation I myself was poorly represented and had to serve 5 years in prison and Ii am still trying to clear my name if anyone out there no of a good solicitor please contact me or if you know of any stories like mine please do contact me via ,email

    000….. solic

    …… iort .. er

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  2. this is makes me the maddest about our crooked system,you have to lie and say that you commeted the crime if you don’t then they keep you in there until you do ! if they searched and did their jobs,like they are supposed to do, so many people wouldn’t be charged with something they would never do it makes me so mad how quick they can totally destroy someone’s life and reputation!and when they do all you get is I’m sorry after you served years in prison god help these law inforcement,agencies! because when you die you also have to face the greatest judge there is!

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  3. Piete Koo says:

    It does not mean that everyone is necessarily innocent. They are just not found guilty.

    Like

  4. […] The Innocence Project also cites estimates that between 2.3 and 5% of incarcerated individuals are innocent. Based on the numbers of offenders incarcerated at the end of 2011, that would equate to between 36,000 and 80,000 innocents in prison. (My emphasis)  LINK […]

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  5. […] How Many Innocent People are in Prison? | Crime & Justice […]

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