According to a recent study of wrongful convictions, the number of people convicted of crimes who have been proved innocent has increased 70% in the last five years. An analysis of those cases revealed that race is a substantial factor in why people are wrongly convicted.
The report, Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States 2022, reviewed the cases of 3,200 innocent defendants exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 and found that Black Americans are seven times more likely than white Americans to be falsely convicted of serious crimes. This is true across all major crime categories except for white collar crime.
Black Americans are seven times more likely than white Americans to be falsely convicted of serious crimes.
For homicides, the risk of a wrongful conviction in cases where the victim was white is nearly twice that of cases where the victim was Black. Racial disparities are even worse for sexual assault crimes, where Black people are eight times more likely to be wrongly convicted than a white person for a crime involving sexual violence. Again, the risk of a wrongful conviction increases dramatically if the victim is white as opposed to a person who is Black.
Racial disparities are most extreme in cases involving drug crimes. Black people are 19 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of a drug crime than white people.
Across all crime categories, Black people wrongly convicted of a crime are likely to spend much longer periods of time in unjust incarceration than innocent white people.
The report identifies many of the specific reasons for wrongful convictions and concludes that police or prosecutorial misconduct are often the source of these miscarriages of justice.