The Criminal Justice System Creates Incentives for False Convictions

Roger Koppl, Meghan Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The American criminal justice system creates incentives for false conviction. For example, many public crime labs are funded in part per conviction. We show that the number of false convictions per year in the American criminal justice system should be considered "high." We examine the incentives of police, forensic scientists, prosecutors, and public defenders in the U.S. Police, prosecutors, and forensic scientists often have an incentive to garner convictions with little incentive to convict the right person. These incentives create what economists call a "multitask problem" that seems to be resulting in a needlessly high rate of false convictions. Public defenders lack the resources and incentives needed to provide a vigorous defense for their clients. Corrective measures are discussed, along with a call for more research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-162
Number of pages37
JournalCriminal Justice Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • criminal justice
  • false convictions
  • forensic science
  • multitask problem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'The Criminal Justice System Creates Incentives for False Convictions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this