A 46-year-old Virginia man who was exonerated last year of crimes he was convicted of when he was 18 recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee of the importance of the Justice for All Act, which provides funding to state and local governments to use DNA evidence to convict criminals and exonerate the innocent. With the help of DNA tests, Thomas Haynesworth was found to be innocent of a series of rapes.
Testing of DNA evidence is growing in importance for those who earn a criminal justice degree or online criminal justice degree. Since 1989, when DNA evidence first became available, nearly 290 prisoners have been exonerated of crimes they did not commit. In nearly half of those cases, the real suspect was identified.
"We often hear about wrongful convictions in terms of data compiled," U.S. Senator Al Franken said. "Those statistics are of course important, but we can't lose sight of the human toll caused by wrongful convictions."
In many cases, prisoners who were wrongly convicted exit the corrections system without many work or technical skills. For instance, the famous trio known as the West Memphis Three were freed from prison in 2011 after 18 years in prison - more than half of their lives. They and other freed prisoners often struggle to learn about the new world.