Researchers have not had an accurate answer when asked, “how many prisoners are wrongfully convicted?” until now. A study was recently completed to estimate the average amount of wrongful convictions in the nation’s prison population. It has been estimated that three to five percent of capital crime charges result in wrongful convictions. However, this University of Pennsylvania study is the first of its kind for all other crimes, such as drug possession, theft and assault.

A first-ever estimate of wrongful convictions

Researchers asked over 3,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania if they had any involvement in the crimes they were convicted for. Six percent said they were wrongfully convicted. Surveys took information about the charges involved, whether the individuals purposefully committed crimes, mistakenly committed crimes, or were not involved in said crimes.

Researchers found this method of questioning more accurate than asking working members of the criminal justice system. Inmates were given complete anonymity and the general data was fact-checked. Researchers hope that this new information can help people understand what plays a role in wrongful convictions and how the criminal justice system might enact positive change.

Oregon could have a higher average

As for a national average, some may say it is not too bad, however, thousands of innocent individuals face prison sentences. Averages may be proportionally worse in Oregon. Oregon’s criminal justice system has been scrutinized for many reasons.

Oregon incarcerates a higher percentage of its African American population than any other state. Oregon also allows for non-unanimous jury verdicts and has a high rate for transferring minors into adult court. With many negative factors stacked against defendants, it is no wonder so many individuals are wrongfully convicted.

However, a conviction does not mean the end of the line. Convicted individuals can file for criminal appeals where a higher level of court can review the case for mistakes. Some defendants have additional options such as post-conviction relief, motions for new trials and writs of habeas corpus.