As noted by the National Registry of Exonerations, for the fourth year in a row Illinois led the nation in exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals. In 2021, Illinois had a record 38 convictions overturned.
In 2022, WTTW News reported the U.S. exonerated 3,000 defendants and overturned their convictions since 1989. The pain and distress caused by the experience may not, however, disappear easily.
Long-term harm could result from wrongful convictions
The time spent imprisoned may lead to serious issues after release. Psychology Today notes that exonerated defendants face high instances of trauma. They may, for example, develop long-term anxiety or severe chronic depression as a result of their unjust imprisonment.
A study of wrongfully incarcerated individuals revealed about 80% experienced at least one serious traumatic event during their imprisonment. Individuals assaulted in prison reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The study found that individuals incarcerated for shorter periods also face severe and long-term issues. Discrimination during a post-release job search often leads to unshakeable feelings of hopelessness.
Wrongfully imprisoned individuals may file lawsuits to recover
Individuals who sustained physical or mental injuries resulting from wrongful convictions may file lawsuits for relief. As reported by CBS News, a Chicago resident received a jury award of more than $25 million in damages for spending 22 years incarcerated for two wrongful murder convictions.
In some cases, wrongful convictions occur when law enforcement plants evidence such as drugs or weapons to “justify” an arrest. Other cases may involve more complex issues, such as misconduct by the prosecution.
Unjustly imprisoned individuals may see their convictions overturned when the court reviews new evidence or hears previously ignored witness testimonies. Get in touch with an experienced and dedicated courtroom and civil rights attorney if you or a loved one has not received a fair and unbiased trial.