In 20 years, wrongful conviction has gone from a little-noted phenomenon to an important topic within criminal justice. The number of innocence projects working to exonerate prisoners has grown from 1 or 2 in the early 1990s to about 50 today. Partly as a result of their policy advocacy, innocence reforms have been enacted. Congress passed the Innocence Protection Act in 2004, providing funding for state postconviction DNA testing, encouraging states to pass postconviction DNA testing laws, and raising the annual compensation for exonerated federal prisoners to $50,000 for each year of imprisonment. More than 40 states have passed postconviction testing laws. Six states and hundreds of police departments have required videotaping of interrogations. Seven states and a growing number of police departments have established eyewitness identification reforms. North Carolina created the first innocence inquiry commission that reviews wrongful convictions claims and presents successful claims to a special court.
The investigation of wrongful convictions, which challenge the fairness and accuracy of the criminal justice system, are becoming a necessary feature of criminal justice analysis. The adoption of innocence reforms will not only reduce this kind of injustice but will also improve the quality and professionalism of criminal justice participants.
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