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Survey of prison inmates reveals rate of wrongful conviction

A portion of prisoners in New York live behind bars for crimes that they did not commit. The number that experienced wrongful convictions is difficult to know, but research studies have indicated that as many as 6 percent of inmates do not deserve to be locked up. The development of DNA testing technology has shown that between 3 and 5 percent of people held for murder or rape were not guilty. More recently, university researchers surveyed a prison population of almost 3,000 people to explore the possibility of wrongful convictions on lesser crimes like armed robbery, theft or drug possession.

Although people might expect large percentages of prisoners to insist on their innocence, the survey results showed a high degree of honesty. Two-thirds of respondents acknowledged their guilt. One-quarter of prisoners accepted that they bore partial responsibility for their convictions. Only 8 percent said that they were innocent. After making statistical adjustments to the data, the researchers concluded that 6 percent might truly be falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned.

The research team wants to conduct the survey at other prisons to see if larger quantities of data will produce similar results. Further study could provide insights to the criminal justice system about the circumstances that lead to wrongful convictions.

A person accused of a serious felony might not want to depend upon the accuracy of the criminal justice system. The representation of a criminal defense attorney may enable a person to challenge claims made by law enforcement and a prosecutor. An attorney might scrutinize evidence and look for weaknesses to undermine the prosecution. Depending on the situation, an attorney may be able to cast doubt on the evidence during a trial or pursue a plea deal for a reduced charge and a lenient sentence.

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