Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Stats from the Statisticians

Sometimes I have a hard time understanding the concept, closely adhered to by some people, which says that if someone is in prison, they must have done SOMETHING wrong.

I often ask myself, "Why do folks have such a hard time believing I have actually found a woman who is innocent and in prison?"

The above concept, of course, is the answer to my question. Americans want to trust our "justice" system. But our "justice" system has proven itself unworthy of our trust.

The Innocence Project clearly shows this in the number of Death Row inmates who have been released...vindicated...proven innocent, although they may have spent literally years in prison, victims of a "guilty" verdict by a jury of their peers.

There is clearly something wrong here.

Another place where something is wrong is in the matter of gender bias in courts which place victimized, molested and/or abused children in the hands of their abusers, molesters and exploiters. And at the same time, mothers who try to protect their children are punished by the courts, right up to and including imprisonment, even though these mothers are guilty of only one crime: they have tried to protect their children.

When I came across the following blog entry, I decided to post it here to demonstrate what I have been saying: There are hundreds of innocent people in American prisons today. Only God knows how many of them.

Take a look at this, if you will:

Grits for Breakfast: Estimating false convictions: Thousands of Texas
prisoners are likely innocent--

Grits for Breakfast
Welcome to Texas justice: You might beat the rap, but you won't beat
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Estimating false convictions: Thousands of Texas prisoners are likely

The string of DNA exonerations witnessed in recent years has made
in the justice system aware that more innocent people are convicted of
crimes than anyone previously thought. But what percentage of total
convictions are false ones?

This is a difficult question because it's hard to find an accurate
denominator for comparison.

Nobody thinks every innocent person has been identified through DNA
and indeed no biological evidence exists to test in the vast majority
criminal cases. So even though we know 39 Texans have been exonerated
DNA, we don't know what percentage of criminal convictions overall are

One of the few datasets that generates a statistically viable
comes from capital murder cases, for which a new study from Michigan
provides a new, national calculation:

Among defendants sentenced to death in the United States since 1973,
least 2.3 percentâ€"and possibly moreâ€"were falsely convicted, said U-
M law
professor Samuel Gross in a study co-authored by Barbara O'Brien, a
professor at Michigan State University College of Law.

If defendants who were sentenced to prison had been freed because of
innocence at the same rate as those who were sentenced to death,
there would
have been nearly 87,000 non-death row exonerations in the United
States from
1989 through 2003, rather than the 266 that were reported, the study

"The main thing we can safely conclude from exonerations of falsely
convicted defendants is that there are many other false convictions
that we
have not discovered," said Gross, whose research has focused on the
penalty, false convictions and eyewitness identification.

Since 1989, nearly all exonerations in the United States fall into
categories: rape convictions, because of post-conviction DNA testing;
convictions, and especially death sentences, which are subjected to
more detailed post-conviction reinvestigation than other convictions;
and a
few groups of false drug and gun possession convictions that were
by concerted programs of police perjury that later unraveled.

As result, researchers know little about false convictions among
crimes of
violence other than murder or rape, even though false convictions for
robbery could greatly outnumber those for rape and murder. And
know next to nothing about false convictions for other types of
crimes, such
as property crimes, misdemeanors and white collar crimes.
The exoneration rate in Texas for capital murder convictions is
lower than in this national study.

Another dataset that lends itself to statistically valid innocence
come from DNA exonerations. In Texas, 3.3% of cases solved by DNA
resulted in exonerating convicted defendants.

So let's guess that the false conviction rate in Texas is somewhere
2.3-3.3%: With around 155,000 prisoners, that would mean between
3,500 and
5,000 or so current Texas prison inmates were falsely convicted.

Another 10-15,000 falsely convicted people are on the probation
rolls, this
data implies - perhaps even more since innocent people may be more
likely to
accept a plea for probation than risk incarceration for something they
didn't do.

Scott Henson, 603 W. 13th Street, Ste. 1.A-253, Austin, TX 78701-1477

"Scott Henson ... writes his terrific blog Grits for Breakfast from an
outhouse in Texas."
- To the People

No comments: