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The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

By Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis
Featuring six portraits of lifers by formerly incarcerated author Kerry Myers
“A riveting, passionate case against lifetime incarceration and a plea for criminal justice reform.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] trenchant and urgent book.” —Publishers Weekly

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Still Life

America’s Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences

Despite historically low crime rates and political support for criminal justice reform increasing in most states, the number of people serving life sentences in U.S. prisons is at an all-time high. A record 206,268 people were serving life with parole, life without parole, or virtual life sentences in 2016—one of every seven people in prison. A mix of factors has led to the broad use of life sentences in the United States, placing it in stark contrast to practices in other nations.

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The Facts of Life Sentences

1 in 7 people in prison is serving a life sentence.

The overwhelming majority of individuals who commit crime—even serious crime—will “age out” of criminal behavior, and their continued incarceration diminishes returns on public safety.