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What's Behind the Big Increase in Life Sentences?

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This entry notes that there has been a large increase in the imposition of life sentences over at least the last 25 years, if not before then.  The implication is that the country has gone overboard in its (as ever) punitive nature.

What it fails to note is the reality liberals trumpet in every other context:  The very large decrease in the imposition of death sentences over roughly the same period. Since a life sentence is the typical alternative to the death penalty, this "news" is anything but.  It reflects, if anything, liberals' success in working against capital punishment, a success that has been well documented, in this space and many others.  It amounts to "news" that when one punishment is used less, its alternative is used more?  DOH.

What it also fails to reflect is the huge decrease in the rate of violent crime over roughly the same period.  Could it be that incapacitation works? Ummmmmm...........we'll get to that later.  A lot later.

HT to Sentencing Law and Policy.

1 Comment

It is an excellent and important point, Bill, to note the relationships between death sentences and life sentences. This is an especially astute point for state sentences, where the report's data show that nearly 60% of life sentences are imposed for homicide crimes.

But, notably, the report documents that over 2/3 of 6700+ federal prisoners serving life sentences have been convicted of nonviolent crimes. Folks on the left likely are not troubled that white collar folks life Bernie Madoff are within that group, and I suspect you are confident the thousands of drug offenders in that group are also among the worst of the worst. But, critically, that group is not really in any ways subject to life sentences as an alternative to the death penalty.

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