Examining Prejudice and Discrimination Against Wrongfully Convicted Individuals

Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
DOI: 10.18258/5182
Raised of $350 Goal
Funded on 7/25/15
Successfully Funded
  • $371
  • 106%
  • Funded
    on 7/25/15

About This Project

Individuals who are exonerated after being wrongfully incarcerated face many difficulties upon their release from prison. Our project aims to identify specific factors that exacerbate the prejudice and discrimination that exonerees face—specifically, the effects of exonerees' race and type of crime they were wrongfully convicted of on their experiences upon release. By so doing, empirically supported policy reforms can be proposed to aid those who have been wrongfully convicted upon release.

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What is the context of this research?

Research on exonerees' experience is new. This study will advance our understanding of exonerees' experience in three ways: (1) Although exonerees face similar levels of prejudice as offenders, our study will also examine their experience of discrimination; (2) We predict that African-American exonerees wrongfully convicted of a stereotypic consistent crime will experience more prejudice and discrimination than Caucasians, thus indicating that exonerees' race and type of crime they are wrongfully convicted of exacerbate their experience of prejudice and discrimination; and, (3) This study will collect data from a diverse sample of adults (income, education, race, ethnicity, etc.) rather than college students thereby enhancing the generalizability to exonerees' actual experience upon release.

What is the significance of this project?

It is necessary to overcome the prejudice and discrimination experienced by innocent individuals after they are exonerated. They face equal degrees of prejudice and discrimination as actual offenders and are not afforded any of the reintegration services that parolees are given. Identifying factors that exaggerate the prejudice and discrimination exonerees experience is essential to provide them with environments and opportunities that allow them the best chance of becoming functioning and contributing members of society. The findings will provide policymakers with evidence driven reforms to aid exonerees in their reintegration efforts, especially those who experience the most prejudice and discrimination, get access to educational, housing, and job opportunities.

What are the goals of the project?

Data will be collected from a diverse sample of 350 U.S. citizens using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Each individual will read one of four scenarios that describe the situation that led to an individual's wrongful conviction and eventual exoneration. These scenarios vary the exoneree's race and crime that led to the wrongful conviction so that we can examine the effect that race, type of crime, and interaction between the two have on individuals' prejudice and discrimination toward exonerees. After reading the scenario, participants' prejudicial feelings and discriminatory behaviors toward the exoneree will be assessed. We expect that minority exonerees who were wrongfully convicted of a stereotypic consistent crime will experience the most prejudice and discrimination.


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Funds will be used to compensate each participant in the study. The study will be registered on Amazon's Mechanical Turk and, therefore, will recruit and use a diverse sample of U.S. citizens who comprise Mechanical Turk's workforce. Each participant will receive $1.

Endorsed by

This research is extremely valuable and the researcher conducting it is a rising star in the field. The experiment will examine how race and crime type influence prejudice and discrimination against individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. Minorities are disproportionately represented among exonerated individuals, making this an experiment worth supporting.

Meet the Team

Dr. Kyle Scherr
Dr. Kyle Scherr
Maria Sarmiento
Maria Sarmiento

Team Bio

About Kyle: I am an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Central Michigan University. I graduated with my PhD in Social Psychology from Iowa State University. My research examines the effect of social influences on human behavior and decision making, especially in high-stakes naturalistic contexts such as academic achievement, politics, and police interrogations. My current research projects examine the psychology and law topic of police interrogations. This research looks at various psychological causes for why suspects offer confessions (particularly false confessions) during police interrogations and psychological factors that influence suspects' comprehension of and willingness to waive their interrogation rights (e.g., Miranda rights). In addition to my research and teaching at Central Michigan, I consult with various legal professionals and give talks for interviewing groups and seminars.

About Maria: I am a McNair Scholar working toward my goal of obtaining a PhD in experimental psychology. I am a full-time undergraduate student studying psychology at Central Michigan University. Although my career goals are not quite set yet, my broad research interests focus on psychological issues within the criminal justice system.

Additional Information

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Project Backers

  • 18Backers
  • 106%Funded
  • $371Total Donations
  • $20.61Average Donation
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