This month our nation exceeded 25,000 years lost to wrongful convictions. The human suffering associated with the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of 2,795 innocent people is incalculable. Without the research and reporting of the National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), we likely would not know of or comprehend the truth or implications of this horrific milestone.
The report, “25,000 Years Lost to Wrongful Convictions” released today quantifies the reality of a justice system making its most egregious error: convicting an innocent person. The NRE defines an exoneree as a “person who was convicted of a crime and later officially declared innocent of that crime, or relieved of all legal consequences of the conviction because evidence of innocence that was not presented at trial required reconsideration of the case.”
The NRE has focused on exonerations since 1989. Here are a few highlights from the report:
• On average, each exoneree spent more than 8 years and 11 months in prison before release. Black exonerees spent 10.4 years in prison on average, whereas white exonerees spent an average of 7.5 years. Averages alone do not immediately reveal, for example, that 183 people spent 25 years or more in prison before they were exonerated of crimes they did not commit.
• Innocent Black defendants served a majority of the prison time, 14,525 of the 25,004 years at the writing of the report.