The number of prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole has shot up by about 22% since 2008,
according to a new reportfrom The Sentencing Project.
And since 1984, the number of prisoners serving life sentences has quadrupled despite a steady decline in crime rates. A surprising number of these prisoners haven’t even committed a violent crime — 10,000 of those serving life sentences have been convicted of nonviolent offenses.
“There are certainly people who should remain in prison for their entire lives,” Ashley Nellis, the author of the report, told The Daily Beast. “But we think that everyone at least deserves a second look. The problem with this group is they’re never given the chance to show that they deserve it.”
America is already dealing with a serious prison overcrowding problem, and taxpayers are footing the bill for these “lifers” to stay locked up.
The situation is particularly dire in California, where the governor is being forced to release 10,000 prisoners by the end of the year because the state’s correctional facilities have become so overcrowded.
The report states that while life sentences used to be reserved for the most severe crimes, those convicted of assault, robbery, kidnapping, sexual assault, and drug crimes can now receive life sentences.
Other interesting facts from the report:
- One of every nine individuals in prison is serving a life sentence.
- More than 159,000 people were serving life sentences in 2012, and 50,000 of those are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.
- Florida, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, California, and Michigan account for 57.7% of all life without parole sentences nationwide.
- Of those sentenced to life in prison, only 64.3% were convicted of homicide.
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