Defense advocates applauded the Supreme Court’s decision last year that a life sentence without parole was cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles who were not convicted of a homicide.
A recent op-ed in the the New York Times calls for the United States to go further.
Over the past three decades, there have been a sharp increase in the number of prisoners sentenced to life without parole, more than tripling since 1992. In many cases, these sentences were an alternative to the death penalty in a capital murder trial. In many other cases, the crimes were not homicide, but rather related to offenses such as drugs, sex crimes, robbery, kidnapping, and theft. Some states enforce a “three strikes” rule, and defendants can receive life without parole for seemingly petty crimes that may not even result in incarceration for a first offender.
Many now wonder if Life Without Parole has become overused and misused. So many inmates are serving life sentences and will never have even a chance at parole, when many defendants convicted of homicide crimes often receive much shorter sentences and the opportunity for parole.