For those living in the Houston, Texas area who have never experienced the criminal justice system, it is likely difficult to imagine a time in which someone would confess to a crime that they did not commit. The reality however is that it occurs more often than most would believe. This trend is most likely to occur when a suspect is a juvenile.
A representative from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law indicates that there are probably multiple reasons for this, including young peoples’ focus on short-term gratification and impulsive nature. Statistics support this. In the course of the past 25 years, 38 percent of young people who were exonerated for their crimes initially falsely confessed to the crime for which they were charged.
Authorities in states throughout the nation view this trend as a problem. Accordingly, they are trying to determine how to best deal with the issue. Recommendations suggested thus far include videotaping interrogations with juveniles. Doing so could be beneficial on at least two fronts. First, it provides a record for judges and juries to view when a case goes to trial. It is also more likely to keep those conducting the interrogation from taking an improper route of questioning.
While it is fair to say that in most cases going to prison after pleading guilty to a crime is not the desired outcome, this is particularly true where juveniles are concerned. This is because facing time behind bars at such a young age can have a huge bearing on the life of a young person who confesses to a crime.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “False Confessions Dog Teens,” Zusha Elinson, Sept. 8. 2013