Of the 139 people exonerated last year, the National Registry of Exonerations (NRE) said that 42 cases involved Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs). These units, which are part of prosecutors’ offices, are intended to “prevent, identify, and correct false convictions,” In Justice Today reports. As prosecutorial reform has had more attention, many district attorneys have created CIUs. The national registry said there were 33 in 2017, “more than double the number in 2013, and more than six times the number in 2011.” (That list doesn’t include recently created units in Detroit and Jacksonville, Fl.) While the number of CIUs is growing, they are still extremely rare. There are at least 2,300 prosecutor’s offices in the U.S., meaning that 98.5 percent don’t have a CIU.
The mere fact that a CIU exists means very little ; several have accomplished nothing. Of the 33 offices listed in the report, 12 of them have never exonerated a single person. Another five offices have exonerated only one. In Boston, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley has touted the importance of his Conviction Integrity Program. Last year, he awarded his office’s Unsung Hero award to the director of the program, Donna Patalano, stating that her “commitment to the interests of justice has helped us set a national standard with policies replicated by prosecutors across the country.” That Conley brags about this unit is baffling. Suffolk’s CIU has no full-time staff. In six years, it has exonerated only one person. San Diego’s office may look better than Boston’s, but in seven years, the office has been responsible for just one exoneration. Los Angeles County is the biggest U. S. county, yet in three years, its office has exonerated exactly two people, according to its report. Manhattan’s DA, Cy Vance, has exonerated just five people since 2010. Philadelphia has exonerated just three people in four years. Exonerations can take years, and sometimes these offices are facing circumstances outside of their control.