False confessions are a lot more common in the American justice system than you might realize. Some social scientists believe this is behind the record-high successful prosecution rate in the country. Many people prefer to plead guilty or falsely confess than fail to prove innocence and face even harsher penalties.
The Washington Post reports that roughly 27% of people accused of homicide tend to falsely admit to the crime. Risks of false confessions climb for people with mental disabilities. A whopping 81% of people intellectual disabilities, who face accusations of homicide, tend to falsely confess.
Confrontational approach to justice
Most police officers join the force with intentions of defending justice in their communities. Unfortunately, many fall victim to corruption in the force and others either start with or develop a warped sense of justice. Even well-meaning police officers can arrive at the wrong conclusion. In an attempt to pin the crime on you or another person they believe fits the bill, officers apply a lot of pressure.
Changes in the treatment of confessions
Psychologists who study the interrogation techniques report that this confrontational approach can cause many people to confess just to put an end to the interrogation. Thankfully, the justice system does not automatically accept confessions the way it used to. Defense attorneys, judges and even police departments now approach confessions with greater caution.
Unfortunately, if the evidence still points overwhelmingly to one individual or corrupt officers latch on to the suspect they have in mind, false confessions might still result in jail time. As more research emerges about this problem, defendants might stand a much better chance of revoking these confessions later on.