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8 Reasons Our Justice System Still Needs Work

Nothing's perfect, and that includes the way we bring people to justice in America. Here are a few legal procedures and practices that might not be serving the greater good, and watch Daniel Holden rediscover his freedom after he's released from death row in "Rectify," Mondays at 9pm on Sundance Channel.

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1. Tough Interrogation Tactics Can Lead To False Confessions

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Interrogations are obviously an important part of the justice system but sometimes law officials employ unfair tactics to elicit a confession — which can cause an innocent person to confess to a crime they didn't commit just so the interrogation will end.

2. Polygraph Tests Can Be Used As Evidence, Even Though There's No Proof Of Their Accuracy


Polygraph enthusiasts claim they are 90% effective in determining if a person is lying or telling the truth. But the National Research Council reported in 2003 that there's no scientific evidence to support the test's accuracy, and yet 19 states allow for the results of the tests to be used as evidence in a court of law.

3. Nonviolent Criminals Are Housed With Violent Ones

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In July of 2012, 60% of America's prison population consisted of nonviolent offenders. Some argue that in order to make room for violent criminals, we need to soften the punishments we're giving out to convicts who didn't inflict any harm. But since that's unlikely to happen, it seems unnecessary and unsafe to lump the nonviolent criminals and the dangerous ones together.

5. Addiction Is A Public Health Problem, Not Necessarily A Criminal One

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People who suffer from addiction need physical and psychological help to get sober. But if they're sentenced to jail time, they are not going to get the proper care they need because most detention centers do not have the budget to offer drug counseling services.

6. Eyewitness Testimony Is Incredibly Unreliable


Juries find eyewitness testimony to be pretty persuasive, but countless studies show it's not always credible because suggestion can influence the way memories are stored in our minds. This means that the memory a person has of a crime he or she witnessed could change based on the questions they are asked about the event.

7. The Fourth Amendment Is Not Always Observed

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The fourth amendment protects citizens against unlawful searches and seizures. It also requires search warrants to be signed by a judge and to clearly distinguish probable cause (or the reason why a search is is necessary), but sometimes searches are carried out before proper authorization has been granted.

8. Solitary Confinement Has Longstanding Medical Effects

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Prisons around the country have different standards for solitary confinement, but studies show prolonged isolation can cause depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis — and can even be "as clinically distressing as physical torture."