Have you ever heard someone say that “everyone’s innocent” in jail? It’s a tongue-in-cheek way to claim that all people who have been convicted claim that they’re innocent, even though they’re not.
Here’s what’s frightening, though: A lot of them may be right. Some experts believe that around 20,000 people in the U.S. prison system are actually innocent, and they got falsely convicted.
Why do they think so? One reason is that DNA evidence has exonerated 281 people, officially, since the 1980s. They can prove that these people were falsely convicted. They can then extrapolate those numbers out. Assuming the trend holds, that means 1% of those in prison are innocent. That brings it up to 20,000.
Of course, it could be much higher. The 281 exonerations are only the ones that they know about and that they can prove. It easily stands to reason that not every wrongly convicted person has been released based on these findings. In some cases, for instance, maybe DNA evidence that would have cleared them wasn’t found or didn’t exist. The cases where people are cleared only happen when they can show beyond a doubt that they’re innocent. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case for everyone.
You may also have situations where people cannot get their sentences overturned because of a technicality, and you have cases where evidence that would clear them was lost or missed.
As you can see, false convictions are more common than many people realize, and it is important for those who get accused of crimes to know what legal options they have.