People who confess to crimes they did not commit are motivated by many things that we experience every day. Fear is a major contributor to false confessions and one of the other reasons is personal gain. False confessions lead to convictions of innocent people and hurt families and communities. Contributors to wrongful convictions are perjury that means making false accusations against others, official misconduct by people in authority, plea deals, the desire for rewards and get out of jail free cards, among others. 92% of people who confess falsely are men. Once someone confessed to a crime the conviction remains on their record unless they are exonerated.
In 2022 there are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US. That is the highest number of incarcerated people in the world. Many incarcerated people are guilty and some are innocent. The 2019 National Registry of Exonerees annual report estimates 2% to 10% of convicted people in the US are innocent.
That breaks down to 46,000 to 230,000 wrongfully convicted people in US prisons and jails. That’s a large number of innocent people behind bars. Between 1989 and February 2020, there were 2,551 known exonerees. New York is one of the leaders in the number of wrongful convictions by states. Only Texas and Illinois have more wrongfully convicted people.
According to the Innocence Project 2400 wrongfully incarcerated people have been exonerated in the United States since 1989. In 2015 there was an explosion of exonerations. However many people who seek to clear their names after conviction are unable to do so. Most don’t have DNA to test, witnesses have died or moved away, no money to pay for help, etc.