U.S. Department of Justice

Tinkering with Life: A Look at the Inappropriateness of Life Without Parole as an Alternative to the Death Penalty

Publication year: 2013 | Cataloged on: Jul. 10, 2013

Library ID

  • 027109

Author(s)

Other Information

  • 2013
  • 20 pages
ANNOTATION: Problems with and suggested solutions for the increased use of life without parole (LWOP) are discussed. This article is divided into six sections: the rise of LWOP sentences; causes for LWOP expansion—tough on crime, repeal of the death penalty, public mistrust, and promotion of LWOP as a replacement for the death penalty; what is wrong with LWOP—lack of heightened review, mandatory sentences, and racial disparity; LWOP as an inappropriate alternative to the death penalty; suggestions for reform—see nuanced assessments of death penalty alternatives, look to other countries for guidance, and oppose LWOP except in death-eligible cases; and conclusion. “Life without parole is effectively a death sentence; to consider it as anything less severe is a mistake. Even though one’s death may not occur for a few decades or more does not mean that the government has not decided how and where the individual will die. When looked at from this view, LWOP is not so different from the death penalty. Moreover, in both an execution and a life sentence without the possibility of parole, there is no hope for redemption or reform, despite the reality that many people turn away from their criminal pasts and go on to lead law-abiding lives where they could contribute in a positive way to society. Neither of these two sentences allow for this possibility, however. Both the death penalty and LWOP are terminal sentences and guarantee that the prisoner will die in prison … [but] if forced to choose between a death sentence and LWOP, life without parole is the preferred sentence. Ultimately, however, neither sentence is appropriate in a corrections system that has the ability to reform lives as ours does. Our society demands fair and just sentences that keep the public safe, apply a reasonable amount of punishment, and attempt to reform the offender so that he or she can be safely returned to the community. Neither the death penalty nor LWOP accomplish these goals” (p. 457).
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