Along with a terribly functioning health care system that needs major reform, our criminal justice system also is badly in need of an overhaul. A recent study indicates how many people are falsely charged and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. And yet there are many who would extend the death penalty in the U.S. to states that have been enlightened enough to not commit murder in the name of the government.
The statistics below are just the tip of the ice berg related to false accusations, false imprisonments, false evidence [often by the police themselves], and wrongful "legal" executions. Besides those who spend time in prison or are executed incorrectly, there are myriad other reasons our criminal justice system needs to be changed dramatically. More on that in another blog posting. But here is an Associated Press report:
"WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled by two universities.
There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.
The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.
They found that those 873 exonerated defendents spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of them are men and half are African-American.
Nearly half of the 873 exonerations were homicide cases, including 101 death sentences. Over one-third of the cases were sexual assaults."
And on and on the report shows that our criminal justice system is failing us.
"The registry excludes at least 1,170 additional defendents. Their convictions were thrown out starting in 1995 amid the periodic exposures of 13 major police scandals around the country. In all the cases, police officers fabricated crimes, usually by planting drugs or guns on innocent defendants."
The report goes on to state that most exonerations remain obscure and the public is not made aware.
I have had personal experience with the criminal justice system while serving on the board of directors of prison-related programs, residential and non-residential programs, in the Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin areas. While serving as President of the Board of Directors of one of these programs, I had occasion to personally offer my opinions to state legislators. I was appalled at the legislators lack of even basic knowledge and understanding of prisons, inmates, etc., even if they served on such committees in the state legislature.
It is alarming that the voters of America still insist that we do not punish people enough for crimes, and that we do not executive offenders, even though statistics show how many mistakes are made in handling people charged with crimes. And then we are shocked to find American soldiers and Marines humiliating war prisoners, and shaming themselves and the U.S. in the process. There are many Americans who see nothing wrong with torture or humiliation of those "charged" with crimes. Thses soldiers reflect too much of the American general public's view of criminal justice. The remnant of the Crusades, the Middle Ages, and "justified" torture is deep in the U.S. psyche. It is shameful and disgusting.