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July 22, 2009

Potent new report on life sentences from The Sentencing Project

I just received this e-mail telling me about an important new report just released by The Sentencing Project:

A new report released by The Sentencing Project finds a record 140,610 individuals are now serving life sentences in state and federal prisons, 6,807 of whom were juveniles at the time of the crime. In addition, 29% of persons serving a life sentence (41,095) have no possibility of parole, and 1,755 were juveniles at the time of the crime.

No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America represents the first nationwide collection of life sentence data documenting race, ethnicity and gender. The report's findings reveal overwhelming racial and ethnic disparities in the allocation of life sentences: 66% of all persons sentenced to life are non-white, and 77% of juveniles serving life sentences are non-white. Other findings in the report include:

  • In five states — Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York -at least 1 in 6 prisoners is serving a life sentence.
  • Five states — California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — each have more than 3,000 people serving life without parole.  Pennsylvania leads the nation with 345 juveniles serving sentences of life without parole.
  • In six states — Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota — and the federal government, all life sentences are imposed without the possibility of parole.
  • The dramatic growth in life sentences is not primarily a result of higher crime rates, but of policy changes that have imposed harsher punishments and restricted parole consideration.

The authors of the report, Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., research analyst and Ryan S. King, policy analyst of The Sentencing Project, state that persons serving life sentences "include those who present a serious threat to public safety, but also include those for whom the length of sentence is questionable."  One such case documented is that of Ali Foroutan, currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life for possession of 0.03 grams of methamphetamine under California's "three strikes" law.

The Sentencing Project calls for the elimination of sentences of life without parole, and restoring discretion to parole boards to determine suitability for release.  The report also recommends that individuals serving parole-eligible life sentences be properly prepared for reentry back into the community.

July 22, 2009 at 04:00 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The Sentencing Project calls for the elimination of sentences of life without parole....

Aren't these some of the same people who advocate LWOP as a credible substitute for the Death Penalty?

I do agree that some life sentences make no sense, especially where the underlying crime is non-violent or where the offender was a juvenile at the time of the offense.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 22, 2009 6:03:52 PM

Aren't these some of the same people who advocate LWOP as a credible substitute for the Death Penalty?

I don't know. That would be funny if true. In that case, it might be more accurate to say: "The Sentencing Project calls for the elimination of prisons, but through a slow process of erosion that might be politically palatable if the objective is revealed in tiny increments."

Posted by: anonymous | Jul 22, 2009 9:05:04 PM

123D. The rent-seeking criminal cult attorney perpetuates his control and continued employment with civil rights suits, habeas challenges, and frivolous torts.

Posted by: Redundancy Clause | Jul 23, 2009 10:02:07 AM

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