149 innocent prisoners who had served an average of 15 years behind prison walls were released last year
Unfortunately, this happens too often to believe it’s an anomaly; innocent men or women are convicted of crimes they did not commit, their lives are ruined as they are plucked from their families and society and imprisoned to rot away… Why? Because someone thought they were an undesirable, someone needed a scapegoat and the accused innocent did not have enough money to adequately defend themselves in court.
Thankfully it doesn’t happen every day, but it happens enough to make you wonder
How many innocent people are serving time in prison?
There is a lot of motivation to convict someone of a crime. Local law enforcement wants the community to feel safe and feel like they are effectively keeping their promise to serve and protect us. The more convictions the prosecution gets, the safer the community, and the more likely a prosecutor can promote.
We are part of the problem, too. If a crime has been committed that leaves us crying out for justice to be done, this adds pressure on law enforcement to find someone to offer up as the perpetrator of the crime. If not, how can any of us feel safe, knowing there is someone “out there” who could perpetrate a similar crime against us?
So, they ‘round up the usual suspects and seek out someone who meets certain criteria that will result in a likely conviction. The candidate usually has limited financial resources (will have to rely on a public defender), could have limited intelligence and/or social skills, has had some legal issues in the past (even if minor), and might be considered by peers (perspective jury) as an undesirable. Making for a perfect conviction cocktail.
Even if wrongly accused, we are satisfied and feel safer knowing that someone is behind bars who “committed” this crime, as we light our torches and shout out, “kill the monster,” as if we were characters in the climax of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Then there are the other types of crimes that are committed, even harder to prove, because the details are vague, evidence is lacking, there are few witnesses, but still the crime is grisly enough that we want to see someone incarcerated for the crime; even if the crime did not actually take place.
|Local Police Catch and Release
Catch and release is a policy demonstrated by local police departments whereby they respond to a call or question a pedestrian and can be compelled to find a reason to detain the individual, especially if the person appears to have a low income or mental health status. The individual is booked and released as soon as an audience with a judge has been arranged. The individual's just happy to be out and not convicted of something they didn't do.
But they are now in the system, just in case their character comes into question when associated with some other crime in the future.
Poor Man’s Revenge
This is how the dregs of society use (or abuse) the system to execute revenge on someone else within arm’s reach of their position in society at no cost. Simply accuse the person of some wrongdoing of a criminal act, have a compelling story to tell that will enrage the community, be capable and willing to lie on the stand under oath and you could get your free revenge served up by our legal system with a smile.
We’re likely to convict someone we don’t particularly care for. If nothing else, our communities look better with those who make little contribution to society behind bars. We feel safer and it bolsters our faith in the system charged with our safety and security. Plus, who doesn’t like a good story, where someone is wronged and the perpetrator pays the price the evil deed (whether they did it, or not)? And we don’t mind expending tax dollars in this manner. Besides, “I always knew there was something not right about that guy,” or gal.
We’re likely to think our community is better off without this individual on our streets anyway. And speaking of a jury of peers… Really? In most cases, where the wrongly accused is of a low economic (and/or mental health) stature, the members of the jury are likely not. (Although adequately selecting authentic peers would make for an entertaining reality TV show.)
In recent years, organizations have sprung up to help those wrongly accused and committed, but their resources are minimal, the demand is high and they hand-pick their cases that usually involve life sentences. There aren’t many resources available for imprisoned innocents serving less than a sentence of life in prison.
Is our system broken? Yes.
Can we fix it? Not likely any day soon.
Too much of our economy relies on our clunky legal system. While those who run the system attempt to make it look as good as possible, continue to enjoy their lucrative incomes, regular promotions and benefits.
That’s all well and good, unless it’s you who has been wrongly accused, stood trial, were found guilty and sent to prison for something you didn’t do.
‘ere but for the grace of God go I