Despite the economic downturn, policy makes should invest in ” reasonable criminal justice reforms” to “avoid enormous human and financial costs later,” Ginny Sloan of The Constitution Project and Jon Gould of George Mason University write in the Huffington Post. After many wrongful conviction cases, some states have updated eyewitness identification and police interrogation procedures, and others have changed police training practices, or allowed courts to consider post-conviction evidence that might clear a defendant, say Sloan and Gould.
Many more states have not yet recognized, let alone started to address, these problems, say the authors. Many appear to lack the political will, a problem that is sure to get worse as legislators struggle to balance their budgets by cutting programs. Reforms needed to prevent wrongful convictions may not be expensive, say Sloan and Gould. It is easy and wrong to save money by slashing government funding for lawyers for needy defendants, the authors write. Defense lawyers without adequate training and resources are one of the greatest causes of errors that lead to costly wrongful convictions and perhaps wrongful executions. A new study shows that suspects face twice the risk of a death sentence when their defense teams lack adequate resources.