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Slate takes a look at Pa.’s troubled history of wrongful convictions

Learn about mass incarceration and donate books to inmates on Feb. 18. October 12, 2016 Category: ResultsShort
You know what’s crazy — besides incarcerating thousands upon thousands of low-level, non-violent offenders? Not providing some form of reparations for the wrongly convicted and incarcerated.

That’s the case in Pennsylvania, a state that, despite the work of advocates and some legislators over the past decade, has implemented no wrongful conviction reforms. Why?

“One important factor is the decentralized, sprawling nature of Pennsylvania’s government. There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania, each with its own police chief and elected district attorney,” readsa recent story in Slate examining Pa.’s justice system. “In New Jersey, by contrast, the attorney general mandates a uniform set of law enforcement policies that all police and prosecutors must follow.”

Read the full story

The Slate piece also highlights changes the Philadelphia Police Department has made to its identification practices over the past two years — practices designed to reduce the rate of mistaken identity cases and keep innocent Philadelphians out of the system.

Speaking of “the system,” homicide detective Jim Trainum provided a reminder that the system we talk about is made of human beings. Wrongful convictions, he said, occur more often than not  because of a “cascade of human error.”

If humans can change, so can the system.

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