More Than 3,000 U.S. Prisoners Serve Life without Parole for Non-Violent Crimes

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thousands of prisoners in U.S. correctional facilities will serve the rest of their lives behind bars, without any chance of parole, and all for committing non-violent crimes.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) identified 3,281 inmates who will never leave prison, even though they did not commit murder.


Among them are men and women who shoplifted, stole gasoline or tools, or tried cashing a stolen check, and as a result, wound up being sentenced to life without parole.


African-Americans make up the vast majority of these individuals: 65%. In one state, Louisiana, 91% of those serving life for non-violent crimes are black.


“Many of them were struggling with mental illness, drug dependency or financial desperation when they committed their crimes. None of them will ever come home to their parents and children. And taxpayers are spending billions to keep them behind bars,” the ACLU wrote in its report.


Today, about 2.3 million people are in custody in U.S. jails or prisons, giving the United States the distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world.


The U.S. is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars,” report author Jennifer Turner stated. The United Kingdom is one of only two European countries that hand out such sentences, but it has been done in only 49 murder cases. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that sentencing someone to life without parole for a non-violent crime is a human rights violation.


The “war on drugs” has been largely responsible for the country’s bloated penal system, with 80% of the prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent offenses convicted of drug-related crimes.


“It's ridiculous, because the name of our business is 'corrections' – to correct deviant behavior,” Angola, Louisiana prison warden Burl Cain told The Guardian. “If I'm a successful warden and I do my job and we correct the deviant behavior, then we should have a parole hearing. I need to keep predators in these big old prisons, not dying old men.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

A Living Death: Sentenced to Die Behind Bars for What? (American Civil Liberties Union)

Over 3,000 U.S. Prisoners Serving Life without Parole (by Ed Pilkington, The Guardian)

Limiting Incarceration of Non-Violent Offenders Could Save Billions (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



Malcolm Kyle 5 years ago
Alcohol (United States) is a factor in the following: * 73% of all felonies * 73% of child beating cases * 41% of rape cases * 80% of wife battering cases * 72% of stabbings * 83% of homicides. According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute (2003): "The research into the global burden of disease attributable to drugs found, that in 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately 223,000 deaths (only 3 percent of all drug-related deaths)." Marijuana doesn't get a mention. According to DrugRehabs.Org, national (USA) mortality figures for 2009 were: tobacco 435,000; poor diet and physical inactivity 365,000; alcohol 85,000; microbial agents 75,000; toxic agents 55,000; motor vehicle crashes 26,347; adverse reactions to prescription drugs 32,000; suicide 30,622; incidents involving firearms 29,000; homicide 20,308; sexual behaviors 20,000; all illicit drug use, direct and indirect 17,000; and marijuana 0. Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime. Alcohol scored 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54). It is the most harmful to others by a wide margin, and is ranked fourth behind heroin, crack, and methamphetamine (crystal meth) for harm to the individual.
Billy 5 years ago
The US is fast becoming a nation of human rights violations on a par with the third world and China. What has become of our nation? This is not the America that I grew up with, so what happened? Our democracy is but a facade and I am at a loss to understand the cause and those behind this atrocity.

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