Kent Roach


This article examines the role of innocence commissions as emerging criminal justice institutions. It draws a distinction between commissions devoted to the correction of errors in individual cases and commissions which make systemic reform recommendations in an effort to prevent wrongful convictions in future cases. The British and Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission are examined as examples of the former type of commission while Canadian public inquiries and commissions in Illinois, California and Virginia are examined as examples of the latter type of commission. Innocence commissions have had difficulties combining error correction and systemic reform because there are differences and tensions between the two functions. Error correction commissions play a quasi-judicial role while systemic reform commissions often engage in political compromise and advocacy. Although there is a need for both error correction and systemic reform with regard to wrongful convictions, more attention needs to be paid to the precise objectives and limitations of innocence commissions as new and fragile criminal justice institutions.