Volume: 23, Number: 1
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On May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles in noncapital cases are unconstitutional. This issue of Federal Sentencing Reporter focuses on the historic nature of Graham and on the increasing prevalence of LWOP sentences. In 2008, 1 in 39 inmates were serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, a figure that has more than tripled in just 16 years. This issue of FSR considers the controversies surrounding LWOP sentences, their viability as an alternative to capital punishment, and how aging LWOP populations tax correctional resources over the long term.
The Beginning of the End for Life Without Parole?
Michael M. O'Hear, associate dean for research and professor of law at Marquette University Law School and editor, Federal Sentencing Reporter, and LifeSentencesBlog.com
Throwing Away the Key: The Expansion of Life Without Parole Sentences in the United States
Ashley Nellis, research analyst, The Sentencing Project
Vera’s featured article, written by Ashley Nellis, chronicles the era of “tough on crime” policies that ushered in LWOP sentences. Nellis writes that the issue of parole-ineligible life sentences is complex and cannot be regarded as merely severe consequences for violent offenses. Rather, many LWOP sentences are the product of habitual offender laws that are applied to nonviolent property and drug-related crimes. Nellis points out that such policy rejects the idea of personal reformation and prevents the fiscally sound decision to parole aging inmates who are a low risk to public safety.
Other articles in this issue
(available through the University of California Press)
- Less than We Might: Meditations on Life in Prison Without Parole
Carole d’Elia, deputy executive commissioner of the Little Hoover Commission
- Clemency for Lifers: The Only Road Out Is the Road Not Taken
Molly M. Gill, staff attorney and project director, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
- Compassion and the Public Interest: Wisconsin’s New Compassionate Release Legislation
Gregory J. O’Meara, associate professor of law, Marquette University Law School
- Outlawing Irreducible Life Sentences: Europe on the Brink?
Dirk van Zyl Smit, professor of comparative and international penal law, University of Nottingham
Commentary on Graham v. Florida
- Categorizing Graham
Rachel E. Barkow, professor of law and faculty director, Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, New York University School of Law
- Graham’s Good News—and Not
Richard S. Frase, Benjamin N. Berger Professor of Criminal Law, University of Minnesota Law School
- The Purposes of Punishment Test
Youngjae Lee, associate professor of law, Fordham University School of Law
- May Minors Be Retributively Punished After Panetti (and Graham)?
Dan Markel, D’Alemberte Professor, Florida State University College of Law
- From Harmelin to Graham—Justice Kennedy Stakes Out a Path to Proportional Punishment
Eva S. Nilsen, clinical associate professor of law, Boston University School of Law
- A Modest Appeal for Decent Respect
Jessica Olive, University of Maryland School of Law, and David Gray, assistant professor of law, University of Maryland School of Law
- Hope, Imprisonment, and the Constitution
Alice Ristroph, professor of law, Seton Hall University School of Law
- Graham Lets the Sun Shine In: The Supreme Court Opens a Window Between Two Formerly Walled-Off Approaches to Eighth Amendment Proportionality Challenges
Carol S. Steiker, Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Jordan M. Steiker, Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law, University of Texas School of Law
- Evolving Away from Evolving Standards of Decency
John F. Stinneford, assistant professor of law, University of Florida Levin College of Law