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No End In Sight

No End In Sight: America’s Enduring Reliance on Life Imprisonment

Before America’s era of mass incarceration took hold in the early 1970s, the number of individuals in prison was less than 200,000. Today, it’s 1.4 million; and more than 200,000 people are serving life sentences – one out of every seven in prison. More people are sentenced to life in prison in America than there were people in prison serving any sentence in 1970.

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A Second Look at Injustice

Second look reforms enable reconsideration of sentences now recognized as unjust and ineffective, allowing better investments to promote public safety. Twenty-five states have recently introduced such legislation to review long sentences and over 60 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders have called for second look legislation, with several prosecutors’ offices having launched sentence review units.

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A New Lease on Life

A comprehensive analysis of recidivism research reveals that we can safely release people from prison who have been convicted of violent crime much sooner than we typically do. Most people who commit homicide are unlikely to do so again and overall rates of violent offending of any type among people released from a life sentence are rare.

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Delaying a Second Chance

The Declining Prospects for Parole on Life Sentences

Over the past three decades many legislatures, governors, and parole boards have toughened lifer parole policies and practices—effectively increasing prison terms for the more than 110,000 individuals serving parole-eligible life sentences.

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In the Extreme

Women Serving Life Without Parole and Death Sentences in the United States

One of every 15 women in prison — amounting to more than 6,600 women — is serving a life sentence and nearly 2,000 of these have no chance for parole. Another 52 women in the U.S. are awaiting execution. Many women serving extreme sentences were victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse long before they committed a crime.

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