ACLU report: 3,278 nonviolent offenders serving life without parole

In a new report entitled “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses” (click to access PDF), the ACLU spotlights  the thousands of prisoners serving life without parole sentences in the United States for nonviolent drug and property crimes. 

“This report documents the thousands of lives ruined and families destroyed by sentencing people to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, and includes detailed case studies of 110 such people. It also includes a detailed fiscal analysis tallying the $1.784 billion cost to taxpayers to keep the 3,278 prisoners currently serving LWOP for nonviolent offenses incarcerated for the rest of their lives.

About 79 percent of these 3,278 prisoners are serving LWOP for nonviolent drug crimes. More than 18 percent of federal prisoners surveyed by the ACLU are serving LWOP for their first offenses. … The overwhelming majority (83.4 percent) of the LWOP sentences for nonviolent crimes surveyed by the ACLU were mandatory. In these cases, the sentencing judges had no choice in sentencing due to laws requiring mandatory minimum periods of imprisonment, habitual offender laws, statutory penalty enhancements, or other sentencing rules that mandated LWOP.”

(Excerpted from the report’s executive summary.)

Click here for related resources from the ACLU, including links to stories about individual cases as well as an interactive map of prisoners serving LWOP.