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End Life Imprisonment

20 years is enough.

End Life Imprisonment

20 years is enough.

To end mass incarceration we must address life sentences.

A record one of every seven people in U.S. prisons is serving a life sentence. While most have committed a violent offense, research finds that people age out of criminal behavior — producing diminishing returns for public safety.

The financial and moral costs of life imprisonment also burden communities by diverting vital resources from crime prevention and social intervention programs.

This country needs a crime policy rooted in research and mercy. It’s time to end life imprisonment.

To end mass incarceration we must address life sentences.

A record one of every seven people in U.S. prisons is serving a life sentence. While most have committed a violent offense, research finds that people age out of criminal behavior — producing diminishing returns for public safety.

The financial and moral costs of life imprisonment also burden communities by diverting vital resources from crime prevention and social intervention programs.

This country needs a crime policy rooted in research and mercy. It’s time to end life imprisonment.

Life sentences
don’t advance
public safety

People who break the law generally don’t expect to be caught. They are not familiar with legal penalties, and/or commit crimes with their judgment compromised by substance use or mental health issues.

People age out of crime. Criminal behavior is most common during teenage years and gradually tapers off during young adulthood.

Incarceration comes at the expense of prevention. Long prison terms are costly and impede public investments in effective crime prevention, substance use treatment, and other rehabilitative efforts that produce healthier and safer communities.

Life sentences
don’t advance
public safety

People who break the law generally don’t expect to be caught. They are not familiar with legal penalties, and/or commit crimes with their judgment compromised by substance use or mental health issues.

People age out of crime. Criminal behavior is most common during teenage years and gradually tapers off during young adulthood.

Incarceration comes at the expense of prevention. Long prison terms are costly and impede public investments in effective crime prevention, substance use treatment, and other rehabilitative efforts that produce healthier and safer communities.

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A record number of people are serving life sentences

While violent crimes have generally declined for the past 25 years, the number of lifers in prison has continued to rise due to policy decisions to lengthen sentences, delay parole hearings, and reduce parole grants.

A record number of people are serving life sentences

While violent crimes have generally declined for the past 25 years, the number of lifers in prison has continued to rise due to policy decisions to lengthen sentences, delay parole hearings, and reduce parole grants.

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Racial and ethnic disparities

Like the rest of the criminal justice system, racial and ethnic disparities are a persistent feature of life imprisonment.

  • African Americans and Latinos represent two-thirds of those serving life sentences.
  • One in five African Americans in prison is serving a life sentence.
Racial-mobile

Racial and ethnic disparities

Like the rest of the criminal justice system, racial and ethnic disparities are a persistent feature of life imprisonment.

  • African Americans and Latinos represent two-thirds of those serving life sentences.
  • One in five African Americans in prison is serving a life sentence.

Women and girls

The rate of women serving life sentences has grown twice as quickly as the rate of men.

A history of trauma prior to incarceration is prevalent among girls sentenced to life without parole. Most have reported histories of physical and/or sexual abuse, and most witnessed violence in their home.

Women-mobile

Women and girls

The rate of females serving life has grown twice as quickly as the rate of men serving life.

A history of trauma prior to incarceration is prevalent among girls sentenced to life without parole. Most have reported histories of physical and sexual abuse, and most witnessed violence in their home.

Youth

Nearly 12,000 people were sentenced to life for crimes committed as a minor.

Recently the Supreme Court narrowed the allowable circumstances under which youth can receive life without parole sentences. These rulings rely on research that underscores the concept that “children are different” in levels of maturity and impulsivity, limiting their culpability.

While this is a significant milestone, it is only the beginning.

youth-mobile

Youth

Nearly 12,000 people were sentenced to life for crimes committed as a minor.

Recently the Supreme Court narrowed the allowable circumstances under which youth can receive life without parole sentences. These rulings rely on research that underscores the concept that “children are different” in levels of maturity and impulsivity, limiting their culpability.

While this is significant, it is only a start.

Aging in prison

It costs twice as much to incarcerate older people because of increased health care needs. Given that people age out of crime, public safety dollars are better spent on crime prevention and diversion strategies.

 

Photo credit: Jessica Earnshaw

Aging-mobile
Photo Credit: Jessica Earnshaw

Aging in prison

It costs twice as much to incarcerate older people because of increased health care needs. Given that people age out of crime, public safety dollars are better spent on crime prevention and diversion strategies.

Let’s end life imprisonment

We can protect public safety by capping sentences at 20 years and investing in community building to prevent crime.
Take action »

Let’s end life imprisonment

We can protect public safety by capping sentences at 20 years and investing in community building to prevent crime.
Take action »

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Life Stories

“I’m not the same person I was when I was a teenager, looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. As an adult, I take responsibility for my actions and I’m now focused on helping people avoid the mistakes I made. If I can change one life, at least when I am called to meet my maker I can say I helped change one life.”.

Served 24 years of a life sentence in California

Life Stories

“I’m not the same person I was when I was a teenager, looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. As an adult, I take responsibility for my actions and I’m now focused on helping people avoid the mistakes I made. If I can change one life, at least when I am called to meet my maker I can say I helped change one life.”

Served 24 years of a life sentence in California

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Life Stories

“I am ready for the world, ready for the job world. I understand what is expected of me as a member of society. My passion is to help other people and to be the best person for my children. I am somebody, not a number. I will live, not just exist. That is who I am and who I will be”

Served 25 years of a life sentence in Maryland

Life Stories

“I am ready for the world, ready for the job world. I understand what is expected of me as a member of society. My passion is to help other people and to be the best person for my children. I am somebody, not a number. I will live, not just exist. That is who I am and who I will be”

Served 25 years of a life sentence in Maryland

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Life Stories

“People are told everyone in prison is the worst of the worst. It’s how politicians report on criminal justice, how the media reports on criminal justice. Nothing is said about the person twenty or thirty years later, when they change their lives and are rehabilitated and are no risk to anyone.”

Served 23 years of a life sentence in Michigan

Life Stories

“People are told everyone in prison is the worst of the worst. It’s how politicians report on criminal justice, how the media reports on criminal justice. Nothing is said about the person twenty or thirty years later, when they change their lives and are rehabilitated and are no risk to anyone.”

Served 23 years of a life sentence in Michigan

Home
Life Stories

“I don’t think I could have continued on this path without my children to talk to, laugh and cry with, and just be grateful for each other. I don’t believe my sentence is the last word. I’ve always believed that redemption exists for those that exhibit in their deeds and actions that they deserve it.”

He is serving a life without parole sentence in federal prison. He is pictured with his daughter, Ebony.

Life Stories

“I don’t think I could have continued on this path without my children to talk to, laugh and cry with, and just be grateful for each other. I don’t believe my sentence is the last word. I’ve always believed that redemption exists for those that exhibit in their deeds and actions that they deserve it.”

He is serving a life without parole sentence in federal prison. He is pictured with his daughter, Ebony.

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