Innocent people go to jail

Sometimes the victims get punished, and it’s not OK

Shefali O'Hara
3 min readOct 11, 2021


Photo by Khashayar Kouchpeydeh on Unsplash

There are many situations where people are unfairly jailed or punished for crimes they did not commit.

Sometimes it’s a young black male who happens to “fit the profile”. Unable to afford competent legal counsel, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time — how many innocent young men get locked up?

Then there are prostitutes.

One thing that has never sat well with me — why do we punish sex workers but not johns?

Typically, sex workers are poor women. The high priced call girls who make real money are seldom the targets of the legal system. But the ones who walk the streets are fair game.

Yet these women are often victims themselves. Some might have run away from abusive homes as children, some might have been forced into the trade. Some sell their bodies to feed their children or feed an addiction.

Why do we target these women, but not the men who use them? If the act itself is the crime — well, there are two parties to it.

And speaking of children — what about victims of child abuse who are not heard, not believed, and often end up acting out because no adult will rescue them from a horrible situation? Some of these children end up locked up as well, in juvenile detention centers and eventually in jail.

There are also domestic violence victims — often men — who pay for crimes of self-defense. Is that fair?

What about drug crimes?

I’ve read of many situations where an innocent bystander gets convicted because their partner or friend had a drug habit.

You give a friend a ride and don’t realize he’s got a reefer in his pocket or you live with someone who you don’t know is using. The cops don’t discriminate, however. When they arrest the guilty party, the innocent one gets dragged along for the ride.

What is really sad — often the innocent person pays a higher price.


Because the guilty person is prepared. He or she knows the system. The innocent person is a babe in the woods, an easy target for prosecutors who need that conviction.



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.