Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Wrongful convictions once thought of as a rarity barely worth investigating, have been a far more prevalent issue than previously believed. According to recent research, the overall wrongful conviction rate is around six percent in the United States and, based on data specific to certain crimes, can be even higher. (Loeffler et al., 2018). High-profile cases such as the Central Park Five have allowed the issue to gain traction and credibility in the eyes of the public. Many organizations, such as the Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project, are working to free victims of these injustices. However, the question remains: How, in a country with a justice system that supposedly assumes innocence until guilt is proven, can these mistakes still occur? The explanation lies in deeply rooted problems within the justice system itself, including a systemic bias against those of a lower socioeconomic status. Bias on the part of the prosecution and a lack of access to quality representation and education on the part of the defendants causes those from underprivileged backgrounds to be at a far higher risk of wrongful conviction. This, in turn, contributes to the cycle of poverty in America, and one wrongful conviction case can impact the prospects of generations to come.