Over three thousand people are spending their lives in prison for nonviolent crimes

Posted on November 13th, 2013 in News and Commentary

Over three thousand people are spending their lives in prison for nonviolent crimes

HUFFINGTON POST: …[Robert] Booker is one of more than 100 prisoners featured in an extensive new report from the American Civil Liberties Union on the rise of life sentences without the possibility of parole — the harshest penalty faced by defendants in the American criminal justice system apart from death. Many such inmates are there “off the laws,” as Booker put it, meaning they were incarcerated because of drug laws and not because they committed acts of violence. The report calculates that 3,278 prisoners were serving life without parole for drug, property and other nonviolent crimes as of 2012, comprising about 6 percent of the total life-without-parole, or LWOP, population…

Prisoners serving life without parole make up one of the fastest-growing populations in the prison system, according to the ACLU’s analysis of data from the United States Sentencing Commission, the federal Bureau of Prisons and state corrections departments. The report attributes this rise partly to the prevalence of mandatory-minimum sentencing laws and other punitive drug policies embraced by lawmakers who hoped to define themselves as “tough on crime” in the ’80s and ’90s.

In recent years, the rhetoric that accompanied the passage of those laws has begun to shift, with legislators from both sides of the aisle introducing measures that would soften the country’s approach to drug crimes. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are just some of the more prominent figures to take up the cause in Congress, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called for sweeping, systemic changes to a “broken” justice system, directing federal prosecutors to step away from drug cases… (more)

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