NIJ Works to Resolve Wrongful Convictions

Multi-disciplinary research is critical to building knowledge on how to prevent and resolve wrongful convictions and ensure those that are innocent are exonerated, but there’s another side to wrongful convictions that is rarely discussed: their impact on both the exonerated and original victims of crime.

In the recent "Director's Corner" blog, NIJ Director Nancy Rodriguez summarized what NIJ program investments have achieved to date, and how the agency's collaboration with the Office for Victims of Crime, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Cetner for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Parnerships have helped shine a light on the experiences of those affected by wrongful convictions.

Rodriguez writes that in addition to the NIJ's nearly $41 million investment in the Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence to Exonerate the Innocent program <>, "NIJ has invested in social science research to identify the causes and factors that may lead to a wrongful conviction. One study by researchers at American University examined 460 violent felonies from 1980-2012 to identify why some innocent people are wrongfully convicted while others are released before a conviction occurs."

In addition, on February 22-24, 2016, the collaboration of NIJ, Office for Victims of Crime, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships brought together eight exonerees and six original victims to "provide an opportunity for victims and exonerees to share their experiences during and after the wrongful conviction process to inform the development and expansion of programs and research supported by the Office of Justice Programs."

Rodriguez identified three key points that surfaced from this listening session:

1) Both the exonerated and the original victims of the crime need a system of support during and after the exoneration process.

2) Victims experiencing a wrongful conviction and the exonerated do not qualify for many support services that are otherwise available to victims of crime or those recently released from a correctional institution.

3) "...the heartbreaking experiences shared during the listening session said a lot about what isn’t working in our criminal justice system — or in our society — when it comes to preventing and identifying wrongful convictions and supporting the victims of these tragedies of justice," wrote Rodriguez.

You can read the full Director's Corner post here.

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