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Copyright (c) 2005 The University of Chicago
Crime and Justice

ARTICLE: Understanding the Effects of Wrongful Imprisonment


32 Crime & Just. 1


Adrian T. Grounds


There has been substantial concern in recent decades about miscarriages of justice in Britain, the United States, Canada, and other jurisdictions. The strenuous efforts of campaigners and lawyers (e.g., Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer 2001) have been important in bringing cases of wrongful conviction to public attention. Underpinning this work has been a slowly growing body of research on the frequency and causes of miscarriages of justice, and the procedural remedies that might help prevent them.

There have been occasional, vivid accounts in the media of the psychological suffering and adjustment difficulties experienced by individuals following release when their convictions have been overturned. 1 However, there is a lack of systematic research on the psychological consequences of wrongful conviction and imprisonment. This essay presents a preliminary clinical, descriptive study of a sample of eighteen men psychiatrically assessed following release after successful appeals against conviction.

The title refers to "wrongful imprisonment" because imprisonment was the dominant experience for these men. The term should be understood, however, as referring to imprisonment following wrongful conviction of the innocent. The terms "miscarriage of justice," "wrongful conviction," and "wrongful imprisonment," although sometimes used interchangeably, do not have the same meaning. Miscarriages of justice extend beyond criminal cases; there are forms of wrongful imprisonment (such as unlawful detention without trial) that do not result from a wrongful conviction; and wrongful conviction does not necessarily lead to imprisonment. In addition, wrongful conviction can be understood in a narrow and ...
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