« Weekend sentencing reading | Main | A bit of Booker fix buzz »

October 2, 2005

Fantastic NY Times piece on lifers

The Sunday New York Times has this terrific article by Adam Liptak, which explains why "in just the last 30 years, the United States has created something never before seen in its history and unheard of around the globe: a booming population of prisoners whose only way out of prison is likely to be inside a coffin."  This article on lifers is a must-read, which covers a lot of important ground about life sentences and the modern politics of parole and clemency.  I was especially intrigued by some data in the article:

A survey by The New York Times found that about 132,000 of the nation's prisoners, or almost 1 in 10, are serving life sentences. The number of lifers has almost doubled in the last decade, far outpacing the overall growth in the prison population....

Fewer than two-thirds of the 70,000 people sentenced to life from 1988 to 2001 are in for murder, the Times analysis found.  Other lifers — more than 25,000 of them — were convicted of crimes like rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, extortion, burglary and arson.  People convicted of drug trafficking account for 16 percent of all lifers.

Over at TalkLeft, TChris has this post on this important topic.  And additional data on lifers can be found in last year's potent report from The Sentencing Project discussed in this post.

October 2, 2005 at 01:26 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e200d83459827053ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Fantastic NY Times piece on lifers:

Comments

I am a white collar felon. I was sentenced to 189 months, based primarily on criminal history points calcualted on two cases that originated in 1985, but were not prosecuted until I had defeated the California AG in civil court, which took almost 7 years and all of my money.
I am guilty of the most recent crime PERIOD. But I am 54 and have been initially assigned to an FMC because of my seriously bad health. I have what amounts to a life sentence. You do NOT need to be sentenced to LIFE if the time you have left is less then your sentecne. Mine is simply one case in point of this statement.

Posted by: Edward | Oct 2, 2005 11:11:14 AM

What Edward has said is true: the number of lifers includes not just those actually sentenced to life, but also those like Edward with sentences so long that they might as well be life.

I don't know the story of Edward's prior convictions, but the "criminal history" aspect of the guidelines merely codifies what judges have always done. All other things being equal, if you have broken the law before, you will receive a more severe sentence than if this is your first offense.

Of course, the guidelines turned what was formerly a matter of discretion into a points-based system that often erred on the harsh side. That, among many tyhings, is what's wrong with the guidelines. But from time immemorial, your prior record has always counted against you at sentencing time. That is nothing new.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Oct 2, 2005 1:43:00 PM

the WSJ had a front page column on this issue last week as well.

Posted by: brian | Oct 3, 2005 11:47:22 AM

Thomas Merola is serving a NJ 30 year sentence for murder. The statute, 2C:11-3 was inartfully written and did not in 1983, but now does, explicitly prohibit credits off the sentence for good time and work. He was told he had amassed credits but was later told they did not apply to his sentence. The language says "30 years until released in accordance with the law, without parole". Since the Rodrequez case subsequently held that all prisoners are entitled to those credits, it seems that he should have been released in 2001. He has been trying to get his case before the NJ Supreme Court, but he needs help to succintly frame the issues. Merola v. Department of Corrections is available on line. Please help me help him.

Posted by: richard caruso, esq | Dec 16, 2005 1:08:17 AM

Thomas Merola is serving a NJ 30 year sentence for murder. The statute, 2C:11-3 was inartfully written and did not in 1983, but now does, explicitly prohibit credits off the sentence for good time and work. He was told he had amassed credits but was later told they did not apply to his sentence. The language says "30 years until released in accordance with the law, without parole". Since the Rodrequez case subsequently held that all prisoners are entitled to those credits, it seems that he should have been released in 2001. He has been trying to get his case before the NJ Supreme Court, but he needs help to succinctly frame the issues. Merola v. Department of Corrections is available on line.

Posted by: Annette | Nov 2, 2011 9:11:42 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB