DALLAS — A recent report released by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reveals that the number of Americans attempting to be found guilty of a crime they did not commit is currently on the rise.
The spike in non-criminal activity is believed to be the result of the generous compensation law Texas has in place for wrongfully convicted criminals. Upon their release, the state pays such ex-inmates an $80,000 lump sum for each year of wrongful incarceration.
For recently released Randolph Arledge, Texas’s 118th wrongfully convicted inmate, that means a Swiss bank account, a couple of blondes and a hot tub.
Arledge spent 29 years behind bars for stabbing a woman to death – a crime he did not commit. He’ll collect a payout upwards of $1,500,000, and be entitled to group health insurance, a Chevy pickup for use on the weekends, and a lifetime supply of barbecued baby back ribs.
Across Texas, rewards like these have not gone unnoticed, especially by high school students. In a recent survey of graduating seniors, more than half – 99%, in fact – said they believed a wrongful conviction would lead to a higher standard of living than a college degree.
Of those surveyed who said they planned to attend college after graduating, 60 percent admitted they would also spend their spare time trying to get convicted of a crime they did not commit, especially if they were not doing well academically.
Because of Arledge and the 117 others like him, it is not only students and the unemployed who see Texas as the new Shangri-La. Young entrepreneurs are also looking to cash in on the flawed justice system.
Many hang around outside bars at 3am in the hopes of getting caught up in a murder investigation. Others drive up and down Main Street hoping to get picked up on a drive-by shooting charge.
“Displaying your license plate prominently on the roof of the car helps,” says one innocent inmate, still working to get his conviction overturned. His cellmate agreed. “Prospective witnesses tend to remember a license plate displayed in neon on the roof of a car. It’s relatively easy to get good faulty witness testimony this way.”
Gang membership is another increasingly-popular activity for young hopefuls looking for their first wrongful conviction. Being black also helps. Studies show that blacks are ahead of the curve and well on their way to wrongful incarceration.
For big-time non-criminals prepared for the long haul – and there are many – death row is the Holy Grail of wrongful convictions. Make it to death row for no reason and Texas pays out $100,000 for each year served. Throw in an additional $25,000 a year in parole compensation, and it’s clear why this is where the high rollers shoot.