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Colorado statutes may compensate the wrongfully convicted

Thousands of people across the country are estimated to be in prison for crimes they did not commit. They face many challenges after their release.

The United States criminal justice system has failed to protect an untold number of people in Colorado and across the country. Thousands of people may have been accused of crimes they never committed. Tragically, many of those currently incarcerated are completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

Up to 5 percent of all of those in U.S. prisons may be wrongfully incarcerated, according to the Innocence Project. The nonprofit organization has helped to exonerate 330 innocent people so far through DNA evidence, but it estimates that over 20,000 prisoners are still in the system who should not be in prison. Those who were exonerated spent an average of 13.5 years behind bars, with some being imprisoned as many as 35 years. Others spent years on parole before having their names cleared.

Factors that often contribute to wrongful imprisonment

Tragically, there are a number of factors that commonly result in the false imprisonment of those who did nothing except to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many innocent people are in prison as the result of forced confessions, abusive interrogation techniques or dishonest informants. Some were convicted through faulty forensic evidence or false witness identification.

Most people who spent time in prison for violent crimes, drug convictions or other crimes they did not commit face overwhelming challenges upon their release, states USA Today. These trials often include:

  • Difficulties adjusting to a world that has changed during years of incarceration
  • Having outdated job skills or no employment training
  • Lacking medical insurance or mental health services
  • Having no place to live

Exonerees may also face a stigma against them for having done time in prison, even with their name being cleared. This can lead to problems finding employment or housing. It is also not uncommon for them to face their problems without support if their years in prison have robbed them of friendships and family relationships.

Colorado man receives compensation after exoneration

A Colorado exoneree dealt with many of these setbacks after his April 2012 release, once DNA proved he did not commit the rape and murder for which he was imprisoned. He spent 17 years in prison, during which his son passed away and his grandchildren grew up. His experience helped to pass a law that grants Colorado exonerees up to $70,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment – $1.2 million for this former prisoner in particular. He says that the funds have not been able to give him closure or peace of mind after his time behind bars.

Wrongful incarceration robs people of their freedom and dignity. If you are facing criminal charges, you have the right to defend your innocence. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be your best advocate in protecting your rights.

Keywords: wrongful, conviction, incarceration