Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Tracy Sohoni

Committee Member

Randy Gainey

Committee Member

Jeanee Miller

Committee Member

Jeehye Kang

Committee Member

Kimberly Cook


According to The National Registry of Exonerations (2022), nearly 40% of all exonerations involve a no-crime wrongful conviction. While women make up less than 10% of all exonerees, nearly 73% of exonerated women were originally convicted of crimes that never happened, compared to only 38% of exonerated men. Despite their prevalence, the topic of no crime wrongful convictions is extremely understudied in the wrongful conviction literature.

Additionally, since prior research on wrongful convictions has been primarily male centered, the likelihood that a woman’s case will be accepted to be reviewed for innocence is significantly lower than men (Free and Ruesink, 2016; Scherr et al., 2020). Thus, women’s experiences in wrongful convictions are not well known, especially in an intersectional lens. Therefore, the current study is designed to examine the relationship between women’s intersecting identities and the criminal legal system convicting them of crimes they did not commit, crimes that may have not occurred, and the consequences associated with that error.

A critical feminist methodology was used alongside a multimethodological approach involving both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis to explain the relationship between women’s identities, their wrongful convictions, and challenges faced post-exoneration. Quantitative techniques were used to examine the factors associated with women being wrongfully convicted and how those convictions compare to women’s typical incarceration rates. Additionally, nine exonerated women were interviewed for the qualitative portion of this study to share their experiences prior to and during their incarceration, share how their identities as women and mothers impacted and were impacted by their wrongful convictions, and share their experiences during the post-exoneration reentry process.

Results show that women are overrepresented in no-crime wrongful convictions due to homicide convictions, drug possession/sale convictions, and convictions with a child as the perceived victim, which does not reflect their typical incarceration for such crimes. Additionally, women’s intersecting identities are related to them being wrongfully convicted of specific crimes based on specific contributing factors. Furthermore, their identities as women and mothers who are perceived to have committed a crime had an impact on their experiences being wrongfully convicted and during the post-exoneration reentry process.


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