I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon today put on by the Wesleyan Innocence Project. The two speakers were men recently exonerated of crimes they didn't commit after nearly forty years in prison between the two of them. Listening to the both of them talk about what they had lost as a result of their time in prison, and how they are still grappling to rebuild their lives months after being freed, was quite simply heartrending. Whatever ideological side of the aisle you come down on, all can agree that taking away the freedom of innocent men and women is a tragedy that result in two injustices; the imprisoning of the innocent, and the escape of the guilty.
I don't blog about this issue nearly enough (if you want more diversity on this blog, end the war in Iraq), but there is a groundswell across the nation in efforts to use DNA testing to exonerate men and women wrongfully convicted. You can find out more about those efforts here. Unfortunately, it's not enough. As one of the exonorees stated, there are men and women who will stay in prison for the rest of their lives because they did not have the good luck to have exonerating evidence carefully preserved for decades. Many of these men and women were convicted as a result of mistaken identification, and so there is also an effort growing to institute reform in suspect (in both senses of the word) identification procedures. You can find out more about that here. Inform yourself by following those links to more information. Some people are opposed to reform because they fear that it gives those who are actually guilty a chance to clog the criminal justice system. That is a legitimate fear, but it's not sufficient grounds to oppose increased DNA testing and suspect identification reform.
UPDATE: Here's another useful link, this one to a story in the Christian Science Monitor on deficiencies in standard police line-ups.