Wrongful convictions are disturbingly common. In the USA alone, over 1,050 innocent people who were found guilty in court have subsequently been exonerated. A new study, the first to systematically study stigma towards convicted innocents, finds that the old adage is true – mud sticks. Convictions may be overturned, but stigma persists.
Kimberley Clow and Amy-May Leach surveyed 86 psychology students in Canada about either “people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime”; “people who have been convicted of a crime that they actually committed”; or “people in general”.
The students rated wrongfully convicted people in a similar way to offenders, including perceiving them as incompetent and cold, and having negative attitudes towards them. Although the students desired less social distance from the wrongly convicted compared with offenders, they preferred to have more distance from them than people in general. And while they expressed more pity for…
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