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NIJ's Sentinel Events Initiative: Reducing Errors in the Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Dated: January/February 2015 Pages: 24-25
Date Published
January 2015
2 pages
This article discusses systemic error and gaps in the American criminal justice system revealed by DNA exonerations of wrongfully convicted defendants.
DNA exonerations of wrongfully convicted defendants have shone a new light on an error in American criminal justice and revealed a gap in our system's design. As discussed in the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Special Report Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews (NCJ 247141), published in September 2014, some believe the criminal justice system lacks a feature that medicine, aviation, and other high-risk enterprises see as critical: a way to account for tragic outcomes and using those lessons to reduce risk of recurrence. Can the criminal justice system develop this capacity for "forward-looking accountability"? Can it accept error as an inevitable element of the human condition and study known errors in a disciplined and consistent way? Can it share the lessons learned from these studies to prevent future errors? Can it focus on future risks instead of on blame for the past?

Date Published: January 1, 2015