Report Reveals Most Exonerations Last Year Were People of Color

The National Registry of Exonerations recently released its 2023 Annual Report. The organization, which is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law, was founded in 2012 to provide detailed information about every exoneration in the U.S. since 1989.

The organization publishes the stories of these wrongfully convicted individuals and provides accessible, searchable online statistical data about their cases. It also conducts empirical studies of the process of exoneration and of factors that lead to the underlying wrongful convictions.

The 2023 report revealed staggering statistics that highlight some of the many injustices of the U.S. criminal legal system.

An exoneration occurs when a person is “relieved of all the consequences of [a] criminal conviction” following a “post-conviction re-examination of the evidence in the case.” There are several different manifestations of an exoneration.

In 2023, 153 people were exonerated.

Four of those exonerated individuals were serving death sentences and twenty-two people were serving life sentences without the possibility of parole — what Pope Francis calls, a “secret death penalty.”

Nearly 84% of all exonerations last year (127.153) were persons of color. Nearly 61% (93/153) were Black. This shocking overrepresentation of people color among the list of exonerees is a manifestation of the racial injustice which is deeply seeded within the U.S. criminal legal system.

In total, people exonerated in 2023 lost an average of 14.6 years serving time for a crime they did not commit. In total, those exonerated in 2023 lost 2,230 years of their lives.

You can read the full report, and learn more about the National Registry of Exonerations here.


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