Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca will create a task force to minimize the wrongful jailings of people mistaken for someone else, reports the Los Angeles Times. The move responded to a Times investigation that found hundreds of people wrongly imprisoned in recent years, with some spending weeks behind bars before authorities realized their true identities. “It’s a horrible reality of what is basically the imperfect nature of the criminal justice system,” Baca said. “No one who is an innocent person should ever be tied in with the criminal justice system. [ ] There’s a difference between saying ‘I plead not guilty.’ It’s another thing to say to anybody ‘I’m not that person.'”
The wrongful incarcerations occurred more than 1,480 times in the last five years. Many of those mistakenly held inside the county’s lockups had the same names as suspects or had their identities stolen. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called the jailings “a travesty of justice” and another blow to the sheriff’s jails, which are under federal investigation over allegations of inmate abuse and other deputy misconduct. “The original arresting agency has to, up front, do a better job in vetting the person,” Baca said. Victims of mistaken identification typically go through several rounds of checks before they land in L.A. County Jail.