In recent years, much media focus has been put on people being released from prison when they were innocent. Some of these people may have been put in jail because they made a false confession. It is hard for most people to believe that someone would confess to a crime they did not commit, but the mental and emotional strain that is often put on those being questioned can directly affect their actions.
The psychology behind false confessions
According to the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, there are three causes of false confessions. They include the following:
Misclassification occurs when the person doing the questioning picks out an innocent person and labels them as guilty. Coercion occurs after misclassification when interrogators have already labeled the person as guilty and may use tactics that make the person feel as if they have no other choice but to confess. Contamination occurs when interrogators make suggestions to the person being interviewed that may not have happened, thus helping them create a contaminated memory.
Why false confessions are so important to understand
False confessions are studied by policymakers, mental health professionals and social scientists. Many convictions have been overturned because of the advances in DNA evidence. Today’s technology allows for more advanced testing, which makes it easier to prove that someone did not commit a crime even if there was an eyewitness account.
Every individual is given the right to be questioned fairly and justly with an attorney present when they have been accused of committing a crime. Following these standards may avoid the confusion and trauma caused by a false confession or conviction.