Wrongful conviction is a justice system error with far-reaching consequences. This capstone project looks at four different issues within wrongful conviction and exoneration in the U.S. criminal legal system. Chapter 1 focuses on the impacts of wrongful conviction for female exonerees, highlighting the way they are different from male exonerees, the factors that contribute to wrongful conviction that are more salient to females, and the specific ways the police and courts contribute to the wrongful conviction of females. Special attention is paid to the “crimes” of female exonerees and the additional psychological consequences that many female exonerees suffer. Ways in which the justice system, the innocence community, and female exonerees have contributed to reducing the impact of this problem are considered along with recommendations for ways to expand that work.

Chapter 2 looks at the confluence of race and wrongful conviction, analyzing case data from the National Registry of Exonerations for the most serious crimes of murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, and child sex abuse. This paper explores the interaction effects of race, contributing factors to wrongful conviction, and types of official misconduct on an exoneree’s time between conviction and exoneration. An argument for racialized cumulative disadvantage is made by analyzing the impact of the known contributing factor of official misconduct and police and prosecutor misconduct on Black exonerees.

Remedying wrongful conviction is complex and can be approached from several justice system angles, one of which is monetary compensation. Chapter 3 looks at compensation as an intervention for wrongful conviction and argues that compensation may primarily impact the exonerated but has the potential to be a deterrent to official misconduct. At a minimum, it is one step the state can take towards making amends for the harm of a wrongful conviction. This paper reviews the literature on various forms of compensation for exonerees, their impact, and how they can be improved.

For some exonerees, involvement with the criminal legal system continues after their exoneration. Chapter 4 looks at sociological theories that can explain this post-exoneration offending behavior and argues for an explanation that integrates labeling and strain theories. Being wrongfully convicted of a crime causes harm to the individual. After exoneration and release from prison, the impact of the harm is compounded by issues of reentry to society. Barriers to reentry combined with the harm of being wrongfully imprisoned can explain why a subset of exonerees commit crimes after their release. The integrated theory posits that stigmatization associated with the offender label combined with strains that are either unjust, severe, or provide an incentive for crime, contribute to criminal offending by exonerees. Support for the theory is explored and limitations of the theory are considered. Policy recommendations to prevent future criminal behavior by exonerees are suggested.

Publication Date


Document Type

Master's Project

Student Type


Degree Name

Criminal Justice (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Criminal Justice, Department of


College of Liberal Arts


Jason Scott


RIT – Main Campus