CHICAGO (CBS) — Wrongful convictions not only cost prisoners their lives, but also cost taxpayers a fortune, according to a new investigation.

The Better Government Association and the Center on Wrongful Convictions have released a joint report on the cost of putting the wrong people behind bars. The results are stunning.

The report says since 1989, the wrongful convictions of 85 people have cost taxpayers $214 million.

It says the bulk of that — $156 million – went to settlements, or to pay judgments after lawsuits.

The report adds that 16 cases remain pending, so costs are going to increase.

The financial toll from wrongful convictions was tabulated by adding the cost of incarceration in prisons or jails, along with the compensation paid to the wrongful conducts, and civil litigation costs.

The study showed further that incarcerating the innocent was far cheaper than compensating them afterward, a news release said.

Meanwhile, while the wrong people were behind bars, the actual perpetrators of the crimes remained free to commit at least a collective 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults, 10 kidnappings and at least 59 other felonies, the news release said.

The report was written by John Conroy, a former reporter for the Chicago Reader who wrote the first stories about the Jon Burge police torture scandal and false confessions that resulted, and Rob Warden, a former legal affairs journalist now with the Center on Wrongful Convictions.