Don’t count out a prison cell

There is an old Russian saying that has been relevant since the early days (if you wonder about its relevance now, ask Mikhail Khodorkovsky):

Oт тюрьмы и от сумы не зарекайся (ot tyur’my ee ot soomy ne zarekaisya).

The English version sounds very similar:

Don’t count out a prison cell, a begging bowl may come as well.

And unfortunately, “counting in” a prison cell seems as likely in the U.S.A. as it is in Russia. Here are several heart breaking stories about the innocent people who spent decades behind bars for the crimes they did not commit:

  • This American Life: #282 DIY (audio): After four lawyers fail to get an innocent man out of prison, his friend takes on the case himself.
  • CBS: 60 Minutes: Eyewitness [Part 1] and [Part 2] (video): Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who was falsely accused of rape.
  • PBS: Frontline: The Confessions (video): How could four men confess to a brutal crime that they didn’t commit? Inside the incredible saga of the Norfolk Four — a case that cracks open the justice system to reveal almost everything that goes wrong.
  • The Innocent Man, [Part 1] and [Part 2] (article): During the 25 years that Michael Morton spent wrongfully imprisoned for murdering his wife, he kept three things in mind: Someday he would prove his innocence to their son. Someday he would find out who had killed her. And someday he would understand how this had happened to him.

It’s mind-blowing how wrong a criminal justice system can turn, yet it often does.

See also:
The Innocence Project

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