skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 228759 Find in a Library
Title: False Confessions
Journal: Police Chief  Volume:76  Issue:10  Dated:October 2009  Pages:68,70,72,74,76
Author(s): Thomas P. O'Connor; Timothy M. Maher
Date Published: October 2009
Page Count: 6
Type: Instructional Material; Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the history and effects of false confessions and discusses methods law enforcement agencies and personnel can use to help prevent their occurrence.
Abstract: According to the Innocence Project, since 1982 there have been 156 exonerations of convicted persons, of which 37 (2 percent) "confessed" to the alleged crime; and the Innocence Project also reports that "Recent analyses reveal that 20 to 25 percent of prisoners exonerated by DNA had confessed to police." This same report also identifies three types of confessions. One type is a "voluntary" confession, in which an individual claims responsibility for a crime that he/she did not commit, without prompting from police. A second type is a "compliant" confession, in which a suspect acquiesces to pressure, threats, or promises from an interrogator in order to escape from a stressful situation, avoid punishment, or gain an implied reward. A third type of false confession is an "internalized" false confession, in which innocent but vulnerable suspects who are exposed to highly suggestive and descriptive interrogation techniques arrive at a mental state in which they believe they actually committed the crime. Given that false confessions do occur, even if rarely, police administrators must ensure that their investigators are properly trained in interview techniques that elicit accurate information from suspects. Chiefs are ultimately responsible for all the work produced by their officers, so they must ensure that all police reports are professionally written and reflect the standards for any confessions set by the courts and local prosecutors. Ways of reducing the likelihood of false confessions include the electronic recording of police interviews of suspects, the development of police skill teams for conducting investigative interviews, and the requirement that confessions include a record of the suspect's voluntary, unaided description of details about how the crime was committed. 14 notes
Main Term(s): Police policies and procedures
Index Term(s): Confessions; Interview and interrogation; Police interviewing training; Police management
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.