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Just how many innocent people might be locked away in prison?

Ultimately, that above-posed question in our blog title for today's post must be defined as a limited and rhetorical query.

And the reason is obvious: Who would know? Who could say with any sense of authority or assurance just how many people in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country have been wrongly convicted of murder, a sex crime, a drug offense or other criminal charge and are now languishing behind bars?

It is absolutely the worst-case scenario possible under any criminal law scenario, of course, and it necessarily makes all reasonable people grieve for the unjustly accused and convicted.

It is certainly not hard to empathize, except for the chillingly calloused. The loss suffered when any innocent person is deprived of freedom is cumulative, affecting all of society.

Although a proximate figure regarding how many innocent individuals are serving time in jails and prisons is slippery, it is certainly unquestionable that many people are at this very moment spending years of their lives in cells after being convicted of something they didn't do.

We draw readers' attention to a recent CNN article focusing upon a select investigative unit in one American locale that is working to vacate the criminal records -- either through prison release or post-prison commutation -- of people who did the time but not the crime.

That story leads with the tale of an 81-year-old man who just had his record cleared after serving years in prison for a murder that he had nothing to do with. The report cites many other individuals, too, who suffered appallingly from lack of due process and other shortcomings in the criminal justice system.

Any tale focused upon the record being righted for wronged individuals is obviously heartwarming and uplifting.

At the same time, though, it is heartbreaking, since it serves as a painful reminder that innocent individuals are at this very moment wasting away in lockups across the country after having been falsely accused and convicted.

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