Many people in Missouri and across the country have raised concerns about bias in the criminal justice system, and scientific research may do much to back up those fears. Unconscious bias is a manifestation of subconscious ideas and stereotypes that sit below the level of conscious thought. In some cases, unconscious biases may reflect social ideas that actually conflict with a person's conscious thoughts and beliefs. A major area of inquiry for both social and biological scientists, unconscious bias can have a major effect on how people perceive others' actions, intentions and motivations. It can change the way that people judge others in either a positive or a negative direction.
Being charged with a crime is a daunting experience, and many people in Missouri count community service hours as an acceptable compromise over fines and jail time. A recently-published university study, however, found that community service hours disproportionately affect people of color and low-income communities. The report looked at data from 5,000 people in Los Angeles County who were ordered to perform community service work between the years 2013 and 2014.
The U.S. crime rate has been on the decline for decades, but the number of people getting arrested in Missouri and across the country is increasing according to a recent study. The research was published in the journal Crime & Delinquency.
Authorities in Missouri and throughout the country sometimes use information from jailhouse informants as evidence in criminal proceedings. However, such testimony can be questionable since it is obtained from those looking to reduce their time behind bars. In many cases, evidence has been uncovered that has exonerated defendants who were convicted based on lies told by these informants. Therefore, new rules have been created in many parts of the country to ensure that the veracity of information that they provide.
While there are high-profile and sensational stories involving wrongful convictions that make national news, there was little data about the total amount of people incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. One study sought to change this, and Missouri residents might like to know the results of the study.
The wrongly convicted often experience extensive challenges when trying to clear their names and gain freedom. One such example of false incarceration may have happened to a Missouri man who has spent nearly 25 years in prison. The struggles Lamar Johnson faces are particularly interesting because he may have little hope of being released even though people in the prosecutor's office are not convinced of his guilt.
Missouri residents may be interested in a study that shows that some wrongful convictions involve more than just misconduct by the prosecutors or police. One example of this is a man who spent almost three decades in prison for a murder of which he said he was innocent. The conviction was based on the testimony of supposed eyewitnesses who were later said to have been coerced by prosecutors.
Asset forfeiture is a serious civil liberties concern for many people in Kentucky, especially as it is a form of punishment that can be applied despite the absence of a criminal conviction or even criminal charges in some cases. The policy, which escalated in use during the "war on drugs" in the 1980s, allows law enforcement agencies to seize assets that they believe to be linked to criminal activity. While the policy is promoted with references to large-scale raids on major drug traffickers, a significant number of asset forfeiture cases involve relatively small sums being collected from people who cannot afford to lose them.
Missouri is among many states across the country where people in poverty are suffering particularly damaging consequences from initially minor brushes with the criminal justice system. Towns, cities, counties and state governments are increasingly relying on citations, fines and court fees to balance their budgets. Instead of raising taxes, which impact all residents and are often tied to income and wealth, these localities are depending on fines to cover basic costs of local services. As a result, poor people who are unable to pay the fees are suffering disproportionate effects of this type of enforcement.
Missouri defendants in criminal trials may obtain an acquittal or a dismissal in a case through exculpatory evidence. Exculpatory evidence is defined as anything that would tend to establish that a person is not guilty of committing a crime. Data from a cellphone or DNA test results could be examples of this type of evidence.