Although long considered infallible, an increasing number of wrongful conviction cases have demonstrated the potential for errors to occur within the criminal justice system. The establishment of Innocence Projects that investigate claims of innocence and wrongful conviction has resulted in an increase in the number of wrongfully convicted individuals returning to the community after a period of incarceration.
In the United States, where over 70 Innocence Projects have been established (Innocence Project website, July 2010), over 250 people have been exonerated by DNA testing. Despite a smaller number of demonstrated cases of wrongful conviction in Australia, it would be unwise to assume that the Australian criminal justice system is immune to the same fallibilities evident in the US system (Weathered, 2003).
Currently in Australia there are just three Innocence Projects, one of which is based here at Edith Cowan University. As the number and caseloads of Innocence Projects increase throughout Australia, there will undoubtedly be an increase in the number of wrongfully convicted individuals who are released from prison.
Although a large body of research exists regarding the post-release experiences of the rightfully convicted, little research has investigated the effects of imprisonment and the post-release experiences of the wrongfully convicted. This is problematic as it is possible that the effects of imprisonment and the experiences of the wrongfully convicted differ to those of the rightfully convicted given the unjust nature of their incarceration and the lack of services available to these individuals upon release from prison (Campbell & Denov, 2004; Westervelt & Cook, 2010).
The aim of this research is to investigate the post-release experiences of the wrongfully convicted, with a view to developing effective support and reintegration services for this growing population. This research adopts a strengths-based approach, empowering the wrongfully convicted to identify their own strengths and the strengths of others around them, and considers the ways in which these strengths can be incorporated in the future development of support services.
Edith Cowan University
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