by Madeline Bailey

Last week, NPR featured the story of Raymond Towler, a 52-year-old man who was released from prison on May 4th after spending nearly 30 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.  After being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981, Towler waited faithfully for justice. Thanks to the Ohio Innocence Project and their work to obtain DNA testing, he was finally proven innocent –29 years too late.

This story is tragically familiar, and brings to light many shortcomings of the United States criminal justice system.  Some factors that lead to wrongful convictions include eyewitness misidentification, improper forensic science, bad lawyering, and dependence on false statements from people with an incentive to testify.

The Innocence Project states that the implementation of DNA testing prior to conviction has resulted in the proven innocence of tens of thousands of prime suspects since 1989, and that 254 wrongfully convicted people have been exonerated since this same year.

The system of criminal “justice” in this country is in need of serious reform. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. In 2008, one in every 31 adults was in jail/prison or on probation/parole.

Why is this nation so quick to dismiss its citizens?

And how can we pursue change?

Read more about Raymond Towler on NPR

The Ohio Innocence Project is a partner of the Innocence Network, a national affiliation of organizations dedicated to the reduction of injustice through the exoneration of the wrongfully incarcerated.

The Innocence Project, a co-founding member of the Innocence Network, offers concrete suggestions for beginning to fix the system.