William L. Anderson
August 30, 2013
A new study by Roger Koppl and Meghan Sacks  shows that a number of states pay their crime labs by the conviction. Furthermore, legislators in many states require convicted people to pay for the lab testing that helped convict them. In economics, this is known as “moral hazard,” in which incentives exist that encourage the very outcomes that people supposedly wish to avoid.
Calling this situation “moral hazard,” of course, is built on the assumption that government authorities really wish to avoid wrongful convictions and that police and prosecutors only want guilty people convicted. As one who has written for more than a decade about wrongful convictions, I have come to believe that police and prosecutors actually want people to be wrongfully convicted, as they relish the challenge of framing an innocent person. Yes, this requires that we think of government authorities not as people seeking justice, but as people seeking their own ends at the expense of others who have neither the political connections, the wealth, or the authority to fight back.