Teens Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit at Alarming Rates – Here’s How to Stop It

Teens Confess to Crimes

So far, in the United States since 1989, there have been at least 282 people exonerated of crimes to which they had initially confessed. On top of that figure, at least 4 men have been executed, based on evidence that later proved their innocence. Many times over, those who provide false confessions are scared teenagers who are pressured by the police. Police often use tactics that are accusatory and backed by little in the way of actual evidence. Police are more concerned with closing cases than finding the truth, and this prompts them to utilize aggressive and manipulative tactics to achieve their goals.

There are many interrogation techniques used by police. Most of them involve reading body language or tripping up a suspect with his own words. Often times, these abusive and often deceptive practices result in many teens admitting to serious crimes they did not commit. Of the many interview techniques taught, police like to cherry-pick what to use when they want a confession. While most interrogation techniques involve trickery, there is a technique out there designed to get to the truth of the matter, not just a potentially false statement.

Teens Confess to Crimes
Brendan Dassey was one of the more well known cases of a teenager pressured into a confession by police who had little evidence to support their theory.

 The technique is called PEACE. It is an acronym for Planning and Preparation, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure and Evaluation. This interrogation technique is standard procedure amongst nations who wish to seek the truth, not just fill corporate prisons. England, Australia, Norway, New Zealand and Newfoundland are just some of the places that utilize this interview technique. Older techniques involved trapping the suspect in a web of lies until he realizes he has to tell the truth. PEACE is different.

The first phase is standard preparation, examining the evidence and formulating a goal for the interview. During the engagement phase of the interview, the interrogator actually levels with the suspect and explains why he is there and what he is looking for. This is a drastic turn from the standard trickery so often used by police. This ‘interrogation’ time is also used to address any concerns the suspect might have. Of course, every case is different, and different approaches must be used. If you are looking to determine if a scared teenager actually has some valid information, or if he’s just telling you what you want to hear, implementation of an upfront approach, as utilized in PEACE, is by far more effective. Once the subject is engaged, the technique focuses on honest exchange and does not attempt to intimidate.

Teens Confess to Crimes

Advocates of the PEACE method claim that subjects who are engaged in this manner, as opposed to being threatened or intimidated, are more willing to open up about details of specific events without fearing reprisal. The questioning involves a more detailed approach than traditional interrogation methods, which can then be better analyzed upon completion of the interview. One often used technique is having the suspect recount the events backwards – so as to disrupt the cognitive path of lying as the suspect moves through his story.

The nations that have implemented PEACE as standard practice all claim that it has improved interview practices and has reduced the number of false confessions. According to Inspector Todd Barron of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in regards to other interview techniques, “Whether you agree with the Ried model or you don’t, here’s a fact: It was designed for suspects, for people who were determined to be culpable in a crime. It has little to say about questioning witnesses.” Ried Institute techniques involve establishing a baseline for behavior and determining the deceptiveness of the suspect from that point. PEACE seeks to obtain the truth.

Police in the United States have displayed over again their little care for truth and justice; quickly preferring to turn innocent people into suspects, in order to close cases. The standard techniques of interview and interrogation are designed to compel known guilty parties to confess – not to ascertain the truth from a potential witness. The standard techniques used in the US have time and time again resulted in false confessions and decades worth of stolen time. Unfortunately, police constantly defend their flawed practices and show little interest in change. Even when confessions are proven to be false and obtained through unscrupulous means, they balk at the idea of admitting they were wrong and often fight the truth in court. The failure to grow and adapt with new techniques that would make their job more efficient is just another example of the failed American justice system.

Sources: Takepart, JC Short.

This article (Teens Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit at Alarming Rates – Here’s How to Stop It) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and AnonHQ.com.


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