African Americans are over-represented among exonerations. African American men (and some women) get arrested, convicted, incarcerated then spend, 15, 24, 30 and for Ricky Jackson he spent 39 years, three months and nine days in prison for crimes they did not commit.
What fails to catch on in the public, non-legal reading community is that all of this starts with a simple arrest by a police person.
Once the Black individual (or group of young Black men like the Central Park Five)
are ensnarled in the US criminal justice system it is hard to get out. For the five young men from New York City it meant enduring a range of years in prison from six to thirteen years, they were released. And, as it is with all exonerates they had to fight legally for full compensation. They initially won a settlement of $41 million New York City but continue, now years after being exonerated, to fight for the rest of the compensation owed to them.
This is a high profile case. There are other exonerates, for example, in states like Alaska and Oregon and other states who are claiming they don’t have the money or they outright don’t compensate exonerates at all.
The following states offer no form of compensation to exonerees: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The individuals exonerated in these states have to rely on family and friends to successfully re-enter society.
Why? The individuals exonerated did not do the crime. The police, sheriffs, prosecutors who frame these individuals are almost never, never held accountable for their crimes. This is the meat of the injustice. Prosecutorial misconduct runs rampant in most of the 20, 100 years lost to all those exonerees. At minimum there have been at least 20,000 years from innocent defendants, locked away for crimes they did not commit.
From columnist Radley Balko at the Washington Post pointing out the fact that race matters in the US criminal justice system, we learn this:
- As is often the case with the criminal-justice system, race is a factor. Black people are more likely to be wrongly convicted — they make up 12 percent of the population but 46 percent of exonerees, and collectively represent 56 percent of the life years lost to prison. Black exonerees also spend more time in prison before they’re cleared and released (10.7 years vs. 7.4 years for white people) and receive less compensation when they get out (on average, $42,000 less per year of incarceration).
Exonerates are a group of x-inmates in need of more attention, especially the quest to re-enter society after the injustices heaped on them. We, as a society need to work harder to ensure that the way is paved for these brave women and men to do just that.