Not everyone currently incarcerated in Washington jails is guilty of committing a crime. In fact, more than 360 people have been released from prison after further investigation of evidence proved they were innocent of committing a crime, according to the Innocence Project.
A significant number of those cases involved false confessions. Many people wonder why a person would sign an incriminating statement if it is not true. However, there are several factors involved in false confession cases.
What are the factors?
When law enforcement deprives a person of certain needs or threatens harm, it can break down a person’s psychological ability to make clear decisions. When interrogating a suspect, law enforcement may use several tactics to get a person of interest to sign a confession or give incriminating statements. These coercion techniques include the following:
- Use of physical force or threatening harm
- Withholding of food, sleep, water or drugs to inhibit a person’s ability to reason
- Telling suspects that failure to confess may cause a harsher punishment
- Giving untrue statements, like officers already have incriminating evidence against the suspect
Officers may use a person’s limited education or mental limitations against them. If a suspect does not fully understand that they can refuse to talk to request an attorney, they may confess just to remove themselves from the threatening and violent interrogation process.
How to prevent false confessions
The interrogation process should be fully recorded, as this will help to prevent any wrongdoing by officers or suspects. The court is able to see exactly what transpired during the questioning and determine if any unethical tactics were used to gain a false confession. The taping would also show if the suspect has mental limitations and ensure their rights are protected. Furthermore, officers are protected if a suspect should use physical force as well.