By Caitlin Dunklee:
Wrongful conviction is a bigger problem than most people think. And that’s a challenge. Lack of public awareness is a key barrier to achieving the types of legal, legislative and cultural changes necessary to end wrongful imprisonment in California and the United States.

 The National Registry of Exonerations (The Registry) is trying to change that. Thanks to their tireless research and analysis, the public now has access to comprehensive data on every known exoneration since 1989. The Registry aims to “prevent future false convictions by learning from past errors”.

In addition to sharing case profiles on exonerees, The Registry provides research on critical issues including race, gender, and causes of wrongful conviction. Visitors to the Registry’s site can search for information by state, crime type, year, and more.


Here’s some key facts from The National Registry about wrongful conviction and exoneration in the United States and California:

  • Since 1989, 2,092 individuals have been exonerated in the United States. In total, they lost 18,060 years of their lives.

  • African Americans are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white individuals.

  • The rate of exonerations has been rapidly increasing for several years.

  • Official misconduct, when police, prosecutors, or other government officials significantly abused their authority or the judicial process in a manner that contributed to the exoneree’s conviction was a factor in 52% of wrongful convictions.

  • In California, 188 individuals have been exonerated. In total, they lost 1,504 years of their lives. The average time they were wrongfully imprisoned is eight years.

  • Despite the fact that African Americans only comprise about 6% of the California population, 29% of Californians who have been exonerated are Black. (Source: The National Registry of Exonerations and The U.S. Census Quick Facts on California.)

It is uncommon to have such thorough research on an issue relating to mass incarceration. The Registry allows exonerees, advocates, and organizers to base our arguments, campaigns, and visions on quantitative data and qualitative lived experience.


Check out these recent publications by The Registry:

To learn more about particular cases or dig into data on wrongful conviction, check out The National Registry of Exonerations website. Here’s a profile on Obie’s case.


*More about the The Registry:  The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.