A common misconception in America is that the vast majority of people in prison have been proven guilty by the State. Another misconception is that no one would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But the reality is that approximately 95% of felony convictions are obtained through guilty pleas. To put this statistic into perspective, this means that only one of every twenty convictions is obtained by the State going to trial and proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Of the 347 people who have had their convictions overturned by DNA evidence that was not available at the time of their trial, 10%, or 34 were originally convicted based on a guilty plea. This poses a very important question about our criminal justice system: why would someone who was actually innocent plead guilty?
This is only one of the shocking statistics that The Innocence Project seeks to address in their upcoming “Guilty Plea Problem” campaign. The goal of this campaign is to shed light on the overwhelming number of innocent people who are pleading guilty to crimes that they did not commit. Those 347 people are not representative of the total number of innocent individuals who remain behind bars after entering a guilty plea.