The “conventional wisdom” wants you to think that long prison sentences make the rest of us safe. That is NOT true. Long prison sentences — especially life sentences — are horribly cruel and unjust in many ways.
An excellent source of information is The Sentencing Project, www.sentencingproject.org. They conduct excellent quality research and advocacy to reduce and eliminate the gross injustices in criminal justice sentencing. I have read their materials and donated financial support for many years.
In April 2021 they reported this: “One in seven people in prison — over 200,000 individuals — are serving a sentence of life without parole, life with parole, or a virtual life sentence of at least 50 years.”
The organization researches the problem especially thoroughly every four years. The 2021 report — No End in Sight: America’s Enduring Reliance on Life Imprisonment — concludes that we really must abolish life sentences. You can read the report at this link: No End In Sight: America’s Enduring Reliance on Life Imprisonment | The Sentencing Project
The Sentencing Project concludes that life sentences do NOT make us safer and that life sentences compound racial and gender injustice.
Life sentences do NOT make us safer:
The organization sates this: “Research shows that as people mature, they age out of crime and present a diminishing risk to public safety. Yet 30% of people serving life sentences are age 55 or older. They would pose little or no risk to public safety if they were released. Instead, thousands of vulnerable, elderly people are housed in our nation’s brutal and inhumane prisons and taxpayers bear the enormous cost of housing, feeding, and providing medical care for an increasingly elderly population.”
Life sentences compound racial and gender injustice:
The organization states this: “Just as people of color are disproportionately policed and punished, they are also disproportionately serving life sentences. One in 5 Black men in prison today is serving a life sentence. In all, more than two-thirds of those serving life sentences are people of color. Between 2008 and today, the number of women serving life without parole increased by 43%, compared to a 29% increase for men. Today one in 15 women prisoners is serving a life sentence.”
The Sentencing Project does excellent work. You can read their 2020 annual report of accomplishments at this link: https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Annual-Report-2020.pdf?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=247d5261-4060-40c5-b15b-f038b595b264