I just learned of this new blog site about wrongful convictions. It's interesting that 15 years ago no one couldhave imagined there would be this much information about wrongful convictions...thank God for DNA.
In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice System by Dan Simon, Professor of Law and Psychology at USC.
From the book's website:
"The criminal justice process is unavoidably human. Police detectives, witnesses, suspects, and victims shape the course of investigations, while prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, and judges affect the outcome of adjudication. In this sweeping review of psychological research, Dan Simon shows how flawed investigations can produce erroneous evidence and why well-meaning juries send innocent people to prison and set the guilty free.
The investigator’s task is genuinely difficult and prone to bias. This often leads investigators to draw faulty conclusions, assess suspects’ truthfulness incorrectly, and conduct coercive interrogations that can lead to false confessions. Eyewitnesses’ identification of perpetrators and detailed recollections of criminal events rely on cognitive processes that are often mistaken and can easily be skewed by the investigative procedures used. In the courtroom, jurors and judges are ill-equipped to assess the accuracy of testimony, especially in the face of the heavy-handed rhetoric and strong emotions that crimes arouse.
Simon offers an array of feasible ways to improve the accuracy of criminal investigations and trials. While the limitations of human cognition will always be an obstacle, these reforms can enhance the criminal justice system’s ability to decide correctly whom to release and whom to punish."
There is a great article that was released in December by the Dallas Observer about their "Convictions Integrity Unit" which was set up by the Dallas District Attorney. This gives me hope, because there are many wrongfully convicted who will never be exonerated due to having pled guilty or not having DNA.
I was just re-reading the Introduction of Surviving Justice by Lola Vollen and Dave Eggers. They site a study conducted by C. Ronald Huff of Ohio State University in 1996 in which 188 judges, prosecuting attorneys, sheriffs, public defenders, and police chiefs in Ohio, and forty-one state attorneys general were asked "what percentage of US convictions do you estimate are in error?" More than 70% estimated that the error rate could be anywhere from .1% to 1%. Huff estimated that if a conservative average of .5% of convictions were in error, that would indicate for the year 1990, of the 1,993,880 convictions for index crimes (murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson), there were 9,969 wrongful convictions! A newer study conducted by the Criminal Justice Research Center at Ohio State University found that police and courts are "right" 99.5% of the time. "In 2005, there are currently 2.2 million men and women in US prisons. If even .5 percent of them have been wrongfully convicted, this indicates that approximately 11,000 innocent people are currently behind bars in America."
Only 11,000 people.
RadioWest of Utah interviewed Dr. Fred Berlin, sex offender expert and professor of Johns Hopkins University, on "Understanding Pedophilia." The interview is 52 minutes. Here is the link.
I attended a lecture of his years ago, he's the voice of reason when it comes to issues of treating sex offenders.
On February 15, 2012, the State of Connecticut's Office of Policy and ManagementCriminal Justice Policy & Planning Division released a report on the recidivism of sex offenders in that state. In 2005, 746 offenders who had served a prison sentence for a least one sex-related offense were released or discharged from prison. Over the next five years of the 746 inmates, 27 (3.6%) were charged with a new sex crime, 20 (2.7%) were convicted, and 13 (1.7%) were returned to prison with a sentence for a new sex crime.
According to the report's executive summary, "These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The real challenge for public agencies is to determine the level of risk which specific offenders pose the public."
Something to think about in California folks.
This is my first post on this newly revised website. I'm not sure what I'm going to blog about, but it will have something to do with James' case and life as and with a registered sex offender, wrongful convictions, and issues related to psychology.