A program from the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of law has created a database to register exonerations across the country – it is aptly named the National Registry of Exonerations.
According to a recent article on CNN, 2,000 people have been exonerated in the past 23 years, but this number is only the tip of the iceberg in wrongful convictions.
“No matter how tragic they are, even 2,000 exonerations over 23 years is a tiny number in a country with 2.3 million people in prisons and jails,” says a report released by the authors. “If that were the extent of the problem we would be encouraged by these numbers. But it’s not. These cases merely point to a much larger number of tragedies that we do not know about.”
Many of these exonerations were championed by the group, the Innocence Project, whose mission statement is to use DNA evidence from crimes to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners.
However, the national advocacy group also aims to support exonerated prisoners, in part by advocating with state governments to offer better support to released prisoners.
According to TheDenverChannel.com, Colorado is one state that does not offer any sort of compensation or aid to exonerated prisoners. Parolees, on the other hand, have state-run programs to find housing, receive job training – they even receive a debit card with $100 to get them through the first couple of days. Exonerated prisoners, on the other hand, receive an apology, and nothing else.
Occasionally, exonerated prisoners file civil claims with the state, and sometimes they even receive compensation. Some states have offered compensation to exonerated prisoners, but in light of the recent recession, states like Texas have been cutting funding to these programs.
However, pressure to balance budgets should not deter states from looking into potential wrongful conviction cases. The Innocence Project continues to monitor convictions across the country, and lobby for a group whose voice might otherwise go unheard.