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Wrongful Convictions in the U.S. Criminal Justice System


The great disasters in the American criminal justice system are the conviction of an individual for a crime they did not commit. Wrong convictions can impact exonerees, crime victims, and families. They have lasting pessimistic consequences on the observers, lawyers, witnesses and other criminal justice personnel associated in wrongful convictions. Therefore, it is vital to identify the causes of the disastrous events to make sure that justice is promoted. There must be a wrongful exoneration of a factually guilty person for every wrongful conviction. The obvious major harm extending from wrongful convictions is for serious crimes that can make one be imprisoned. Research conducted by Casselo6 (2018) shows that in cases of these convictions, the crime victims become distressed when they know that the imposter who attacked them is not punished or arrested after they played a role in ruining the life of an individual who is innocent. In the U.S. today, a prison sentence or a police record for most black people is the same as a death sentence. When they are convicted of felonies in the U.S, they do not have extra rights than they had while working on plantations in America by force (Jordan, 2021). This depicts how race affects court outcomes. This paper examines the current literature on the causes and the impacts of wrongful convictions in the U.S. criminal justice system, how wrongful convictions lower deterrence, and various ways of preventing wrongful convictions.

Literature Review

The current wrongful conviction research has focused on determining the main causes of wrongful convictions in America. These efforts aim to understand why the American criminal justice system fails to mend an individual cause of wrongful convictions. A current study conducted by Jordan (2021) that universal flaws in the criminal justice system and external variables like subtle aspects that affect those found guilty or not guilty and how the research are conducted cause wrongful convictions. Fifty percent of people acquitted for killing in 1986 are Black people, who make up thirteen percent of the U.S populace (Jordan, 2021). According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification, false admissions, delinquency from the government, lack of adequate defense and invalidated forensic science causes wrongful convictions (Laporte, 2018). In the past cases, forensic science has been associated with wrongful convictions as it makes observers conflate matters and attain misperceptions about the forensic science disciplines. Subsequently, to most observers, the consequences of wrongful convictions may appear obvious. As long as the wrong suspect is behind bars, the public is at a high risk as the actual suspect is free to roam society and prey on more suspects (Cassell, 2018). However, the public may lose trust in the American criminal justice system.

Additionally, wrongful convictions can lower the anticipated stigma associated to committing an offense and make deterrence decline. The effect takes place by diluting the stigma related to a conviction through lowering the gap involving the probabilities by which a person is stigmatized in committing an offense or not. Wrongful convictions greatly impact deterrence due to activity levels such as stigma, expensive investments in precautionary practices, loss aversion, and expensive sanctions. Costs that reduce type 1 errors vary on how the reduction is acquired (Mungan, 2017). If high standards of evidence in trials are used in order to lower the possibility of false positives, the probability of false negatives naturally increases, and as a result, it may increase costs, possibly in the form of reduced deterrence (Mungan, 2017).

Significant contributions are made to prevent or mitigate wrongful convictions in the American criminal justice failures. The first step in preventing wrongful convictions is identifying the major causes and systemic nature underlying some criminal investigative failures. Literature shows that the systemic nature of the failures that propose their incidence can be reduced by targeting the virulent causes. Appeal courts should be more active as they do not have good records in finding and correcting wrongful convictions (Norris et al., 2019). They should be open to the shortcomings or failures of defense counsel, even when these cannot be identified as incompetent. When individuals’ lives are at stake, justice demands more concern on these fronts. Wrongful convictions can be reduced by putting into practice proper procedures for the collection of evidence, evaluation, and analysis. Awareness training and proper operational practices may help mitigate these problems (Rossmo & Pollock, 2019). Efficient supervision and active management can also help in ensuring that detectives appropriately understand the evidence or proof in a criminal investigation.


Ultimately, the American criminal justice system needs to follow the correct procedures when conducting any investigation in order to reduce the increased cases of wrongful convictions. Wrongful convictions cause terrific harm to innocent individuals and their families, the public, and crime victims. The literature and research examined above help academics, police officers, and the public as a whole to understand the impacts of wrongful convictions on the victims and the public. The literature also depicts how the criminal justice system can reduce wrongful convictions in America. Future research should address the impact of wrongful convictions on crime victims and how they undermine the prongs of the criminal justice system’s authority.


Cassell, P. G. (2018). Overstating America’s Wrongful Conviction Rate: Reassessing the Conventional Wisdom about the Prevalence of Wrongful Convictions. Ariz. L. Rev.60, 815.

Jordan, K. A. (2021). Critical Race Theory, Wrongful Convictions and Disparate Exonerations of Minority and White Youths in the United States. J Ment Health Soc Behav3(2), 148.

Laporte, G. (2018). Wrongful convictions and DNA exonerations: Understanding the role of forensic science. National Institute of Justice Journal279, 1-16.

Mungan, M. C. (2017). Wrongful convictions, deterrence, and stigma dilution. Supreme Court Economic Review25(1), 199-216.

Norris, R. J., Bonventre, C. L., Redlich, A. D., Acker, J. R., & Lowe, C. (2019). Preventing wrongful convictions: An analysis of state investigation reforms. Criminal Justice Policy Review30(4), 597-626.

Rossmo, D. K., & Pollock, J. M. (2019). Confirmation bias and other systemic causes of wrongful convictions: A sentinel events perspective. NEULR11, 790.


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