3200+ US prisoners serving life for non-violent crimes

This topic is locked from further discussion.

#1 Edited by Aljosa23 (24760 posts) -

Long article so I'll just post the main parts. The whole thing is probably worth reading, though.


The ACLU's report, A Living Death, chronicles the thousands of lives ruined and families destroyed by the modern phenomenon of sentencing people to die behind bars for non-violent offences. It notes that contrary to the expectation that such a harsh penalty would be meted out only to the most serious offenders, people have been caught in this brutal trap for sometimes the most petty causes.

Louisiana, where both Washington and Jackson are held, is one of nine states where prisoners are serving life without parole sentences for non-violent offences (other states with high numbers are Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina). An overwhelming proportion of those sentences – as many as 98% in Louisiana – were mandatory: in other words judges had no discretion but to impose the swingeing penalties.

The toll is not confined to the state level: most of those non-violent inmates held on life without parole sentences were given their punishments by the federal government. More than 2,000 of the 3,281 individuals tracked down on these sentences by the ACLU are being held in the federal system. Overall, the ACLU has calculated that taxpayers pay an additional $1.8bn to keep the prisoners locked up for the rest of their lives.

Until the early 1970s, life without parole sentences were virtually unknown. But they exploded as part of what the ACLU calls America's “late-twentieth-century obsession with mass incarceration and extreme, inhumane penalties.”

Even within America's starkly racially-charged penal system, the disparities in non-violent life without parole are stunning. About 65% of the prisoners identified nationwide by the ACLU are African American. In Louisiana, that proportion rises to 91%, including Jackson and Washington who are both black.

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.3 million people now in custody, with the war on drugs acting as the overriding push-factor. Of the prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent offences nationwide, the ACLU estimates that almost 80% were for drug-related crimes.


lol dat prison industrial complex + for profit prisons.

#2 Posted by HoolaHoopMan (7745 posts) -

Yeah, our prison system sucks. We incarcerate far too many people and no one has the balls to reform it. Private prisons probably shouldn't exist when it gives them incentives to lock up people in the first place.

#3 Edited by deeliman (2391 posts) -

Damn. This reminds me of that lol player who went to prison for a stupid reason.

#4 Posted by lamprey263 (23210 posts) -

in some life cases people can be convicted on no evidenc, just the word of an informant who may make false statements only to get a reduced sentence

#5 Posted by thebest31406 (3323 posts) -

8 Shocking Facts From the ACLU’s Report on Life Without Parole


  1. The number of U.S. prisoners who received life sentences without parole quadrupled between 1992 and 2012.
  2. More than 18 percent of nonviolent offenders serving life without parole in the federal system are in for their first offense.
  3. Lance Saltzman, of Florida, removed a gun from his home that belonged to an abusive stepfather who had used the weapon to threaten his mother repeatedly, he said. He was convicted of armed burglary and, due to a previous burglary conviction when he was 16, sentenced to mandatory life without parole.
  4. In the state of Illinois, a black person is 33.25 times more likely than a white person to be sentenced to life without parole for a non-violent crime.
  5. Clarence Aaron, a college student with no prior criminal record, was given three life-without-parole sentences for his minor role in two planned large drug deals, one of which never took place. He received longer sentences than his co-conspirators and has spent the past 20 years in prison.
  6. Black prisoners comprise 91.4 percent of the non-violent life-without-parole population in the state of Louisiana.
  7. Vincent Winslow was homeless when he acted as a go-between in the sale of two $10 bags of marijuana to an undercover cop. The seller was not arrested. Based on decade old drug possession conviction and unarmed burglaries committed 14 and 24 years earlier, Winslow was sentenced to life without parole.
  8. The crimes for which people have been sentenced to life without parole (when combined with prior convictions) include stealing: small change from a parked car, a pair of socks, nine children’s videotapes, a pair of work gloves from a department store, a leaf blower, three golf clubs, chocolate chip cookies and a slice of pizza.
#6 Posted by Jd1680a (5922 posts) -

$58 billion a year is spent on prisons. The money is spent on contractors who provide food, clothing, and maintenance to the prisons. Slave labor in prisons is legal if the person is charged with a crime. A crime is open ended and could be anything that the founding fathers wouldn't be aware of.

#7 Edited by 6_Dead_360s (1663 posts) -

Things like this are why I really want to learn another language and move to a place where the quality of life is much better. Maybe I'll immigrate back to where my great grandparents were from.

How did we fall so far?

#8 Edited by BluRayHiDef (10838 posts) -

This video is very relevant.