The Dark And Disturbing Truth About The ‘Life Without Parole’ Prison Sentence
We all know that the prison system in the US is pretty drastic. On the other side of the pond, 716 people per 100,000 citizens are imprisoned. This figure is pretty large when you compare it to other countries such as China (121), Norway (70) and the UK (146).
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Meanwhile a whopping 60% of prisoners in the US are non-violent offenders, many of them for drugs charges. It’s safe to say it’s a bit of a mess over there.
One of the most controversial factors regarding the US prison sentence is that many states still use the death penalty. However, a punishment that perhaps should be discussed more is the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP). The facts of this are severe and perhaps overlooked – the reality is that people who receive this sentence are condemned to die in prison of natural causes. It’s basically the death penalty but just long drawn out and this concept grows even darker when you know the facts.
Firstly, no one sentenced to life without parole has ever been released. Everyone who received LWOP (whether they were falsely accused or not) has spent the rest of their lives in prison. In a sense, a criminal would almost be better off receiving the death sentence than LWOP, as there’s a higher chance of it being revoked. Because death is different and mistakes cannot be corrected, a death sentence results in years of mandatory appeals, which often result in reversal. In a sample of 350 death sentences, 118 were reversed in part or in whole. Meanwhile, nearly 60% of this figure were still in various states of appeal.
However, LWOP sentences don’t get any special consideration on appeal, which severely limits the possibility of reduction or reversal. It only receives one automatic appeal, and is not given any court-appointed attorneys after the appeal is complete.
Of course, so far we’ve looked at how severe the punishment of LWOP is. But what about from the other side of the coin? If the criminal deserves a harsh sentence (perhaps they had murdered someone) then a LWOP sentence allows the victims’ families to move on. If there was a death penalty involved, they’d have to endure decades of court hearings while waiting for an execution to occur. If the attacker was given a LWOP, they can move on knowing that justice has been served (depending on how you look at it).
Finally, LWOP is the most long drawn out punishment you could ever imagine. Here’s what American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California had to say:
Spending even a small amount of time in California’s overcrowded, dangerous prisons is not pleasant. Spending thirty years there, growing sick and old, and dying there, is a horrible experience. This is especially true given the unconstitutional failure to provide adequate health care to California’s prisoners.
Prisoners condemned to die in prison are not given any special treatment and, in fact, have less access to programs than other prisoners. They are housed in high security facilities with few privileges, far away from any relatives, and in crowded group cells. Ironically, people on death row are provided much more comfortable single cells and sometimes gain celebrity and attention just by being there.
So there you have it. If you thought the death penalty was the worst possible punishment a person could ever receive, turns out there’s one worse – life without parole.
The only thing worse than that would be serving out a LWOP in this Bangkok prison.