The number of innocent Americans released from prison continues to rise each year, in a growing number of states. So far, 223 people–including three Montanans–have been exonerated by DNA and hundreds more have been freed thanks to other forms of evidence dug up and pursued by advocates for the wrongly convicted. These Americans have been pulled from all walks of life, from all corners of the country, into prison cells where they spend an average of 12 years before recovering their freedom. When this happens, it´s not just the wrongly convicted who lose. Their families, their neighbors and their fellow citizens all share the reality that the American justice system needs help living up to its name.
The Montana Innocence Project works hard on behalf of wrongly convicted Montanans, but we also know it´s important to prevent wrongful convictions from destroying more lives. To improve the criminal justice system, we must learn from our past mistakes, understand the causes of wrongful conviction and apply common-sense solutions.
Although innocent Americans end up in prison due to many different reasons, there are clear patterns in wrongful conviction cases. Some of the most common causes include: eyewitness misidentification; unreliable or limited science; false confessions; forensic science fraud or misconduct; government misconduct; informants or snitches; and bad lawyering. To learn about the seven most common causes of wrongful conviction, and to read profiles about individual cases nationwide, please go to This Page.