David J. Celuch
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Why do people confess to crimes they did not commit?

Almost 30% of known wrongful convictions were caused, at least in part, by false confessions, according to the Innocence Project. This can be puzzling to many people, especially the family and friends of those who give false confessions.

Many people cannot picture themselves confessing to a crime they did not commit, and you, like many others, may wonder why someone would do so. Saul Kassin, who scientifically researched false confessions, learned through his research that there are three basic types of false confessions, and each type of confession occurs for different reasons.

Three types of false confessions

Voluntary false confessions often occur in relation to high-profile crimes. This type of confession involves innocent people coming forward and claiming to law enforcement that they committed a particular crime involved in a high-profile case. Usually, these people find out about the crime from news coverage, and they often confess for the attention it could bring them.

Compliant false confessions usually involve an innocent person being interrogated until he or she reaches a breaking point. Sometimes this can involve promises, threats, isolation and other factors that increase the person's stress level. The person knows they are innocent, but he or she confesses to get out of the immediate situation.

Internalized false confessions typically occur when the person who is accused of a crime is vulnerable to manipulation. This can mean that he or she is mentally impaired, but it can also mean that the person is young or under such an incredible amount of stress that he or she is vulnerable to manipulation. When someone in this situation is then subjected to intense interrogation, he or she may become confused about what actually occurred. This person may begin to believe that he or she actually did commit the crime. Then, often with the help of details suggested by the interrogators, the person may confess.

It can be surprising that false confessions play such a significant role in the incarceration of innocent people. False confessions can be difficult to recant, but if someone you know confessed to a crime he or she did not commit, there may be options to help bring the truth to light.

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