Thibodeaux is the 18th person who served time on death row to be exonerated by DNA in the U.S. The 18 death row exonerees were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 229 years in prison -- including 202 years on death row -- for crimes they didn't commit. Another 16 were charged with capital crimes but not sentenced to death. Seventeen people were threatened with the death penalty but not ultimately charged with a capital offense.
Louisiana has a well-established reputation as the prison capital of the world. Writing in the Louisiana Times-Picayune, Cindy Chang said, "The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt."
She added, "Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations."