Why Does Our Justice System Fight So Hard to Keep Innocent People Behind Bars?

In the criminal-justice system romanticized by Hollywood films, those convicted of crimes are generally guilty. And a protagonist need only prove that someone’s been wrongly imprisoned to get them freed by a judiciary that values truth and justice. The scrappy investigative reporter, jaded detective, or overmatched defense attorney comes up with the key piece of evidence that proves beyond doubt that someone has been wrongly convicted, and in the next scene that person walks out of the courthouse to be surrounded by joyful loved ones and supporters as the credits roll.

The real world is often quite different. Since it was established in 1992, the Innocence Project has succeeded in reversing the convictions of over 200 people, but the group says that a “staggering number of innocent people” remain behind bars today.

Perhaps even more troubling is that even when clear, indisputable evidence emerges showing that someone has been imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, prosecutors, police, and judges will often fight tooth and nail to keep them incarcerated. Read on →

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