New Sentencing Project Report: Life Goes On

A NEW REPORT from the Sentencing Project and related articles about those serving sentences of Life without Parole.

LIFE GOES ON: The Historic Rise of Life Sentences in America
The Sentencing Project, 2013, 34 pages


  • imgresAs of 2012, there were 159,520 people serving life sentences, an 11.8% rise since 2008.
  • One of every nine individuals in prison is serving a life sentence.
  • The population of prisoners serving life without parole (LWOP) has risen more sharply than those with the possibility of parole: there has been a 22.2% increase in LWOP since just 2008, an increase from 40,1745 individuals to 49,081.
  • Approximately 10,000 lifers have been convicted of nonviolent offenses.
  • Nearly half of lifers are African American and 1 in 6 are Latino.
  • More than 10,000 life-sentenced inmates have been convicted of crimes that occurred before they turned 18 and nearly 1 in 4 of them were sentenced to LWOP.
  • More than 5,300 (3.4%) of the life-sentenced inmates are female


  • Eliminate sentences of life without parole
  • Increase the use of executive clemency
  • Prepare persons sentenced to life for release from prison]
  • Restore the role of parole


Life Sentences Rise While Crime Falls
The Crime Report, Sept. 18, 2013 

“One in nine U.S. prisoners is serving a life sentence, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group.

About 160,000 prisoners are currently serving life sentences, according to the report; four times as many as there were 30 years ago….”


1 in 9 American Prisoners Has Been Sentenced to Die Behind Bars
The Atlantic Cities, Mike Riggs, Sept. 18, 2013

“A new report out today from the Sentencing Project reveals that while America’s overall prison population is declining, the number of offenders serving life sentences increased 11 percent between 2008 and 2012; the number of people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole increased 22.2 percent in the same time period.

All told, 159,520 offenders are serving life sentences in America, 49,081 of them without the possibility of parole.

To put those numbers in perspective: More people are serving life sentences in America than are serving sentences of any length in the prisons of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, or Cuba; and more people are serving life sentences without possibility of parole than are serving sentences of any length in Venezuela or Saudi Arabia. In fact, the entire list of countries with prison populations smaller than the U.S. population of lifers is roughly 215 countries long.

Another way to put life sentences in context: 1 in 9 American prisoners has been deemed unfit to taste free air ever again. …”


Newly Released Report: Blacks Receive Life Sentences at High Rates
The New Journal & Guide, Freddie Allen, Sept. 18, 2013

“… The Sentencing Project reported that “the black population of lifers reaches much higher in states such as Maryland (77.4%), Georgia (72.0%), and Mississippi (71.5%)…

Despite accounting for less than 13 percent of the U.S.  population, Blacks account for 28 percent of total arrests, and 38 percent of those convicted of a felony. …”


New Sentencing Project Report Reveals Scary Increase in Life Sentences
The Daily Beast, Eliza Shapiro, Sept. 19, 2013

… Culling data from corrections officials state by state, the report found 159,520 prisoners serving life sentences and 49,081 serving life without parole, meaning 208,601 people are serving out the rest of their days in American prisons.

The report reveals some disturbing trends in the current lifer prison population, Nellis says. Mirroring the general prison population, lifers are disproportionately minorities: nearly one half of the lifer population is black; one in six is Latino.

Juvenile offenders also represent a significant portion of lifers. Ten thousand people are serving life sentences for offenses they committed before they turned 18. …”


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