A recent study from the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations found that since 1989, exonerated defendants have spent more than 25,000 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Every year innocent defendants are exonerated after spending years in prison. Many have endured decades in prison fighting for freedom and being denied at every turn.
What’s worse is that innocent Black defendants served the majority of that time – a total of 14,525 years lost to wrongful and unjust imprisonment. Black people account for 13% of the U.S. population, but make up 49.7% of exonerees and served 58% of all years lost by exonerated defendants. These numbers show the continued injustices Black people face in the criminal justice system.
State and City governments have paid more than $2.9 billion in compensation for wrongful imprisonment civil lawsuits. In Chicago, civil rights attorneys are continuously filing civil rights lawsuits to get justice on behalf of those who’ve been wrongfully convicted.
Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located, accounts for the highest number of exonerations in the country. Over 230 people have been exonerated in Cook County for crimes they didn’t commit. The vast majority of Cook County’s convictions come out of Chicago. The Chicago police department has a long history of brutalizing Black citizens, extracting false confessions, and sending innocent Black people to prison.
We’ve all heard about former CPD Commander John Burge. And how from 1972 to 91, Burge and his crew terrorized and tortured hundreds of Black men using mock executions, beatings, and genital electrocution to force false confessions. And more recently we’ve learned about disgraced former Chicago Police Sergeant Ronald Watts. Watts and his crew framed over 150 Black people for weapons and drug charges. So far over 100 of his cases have been thrown out. His victims have spent over 250 years in prison.
It’s time for this country to get serious about criminal justice reform. It is unfathomable that our society tolerates its citizens being wrongfully incarcerated at such alarming rates. Yet, it continues every day as if it’s normal.
Get justice if you or a loved one has been falsely arrested or imprisoned.