IF A NATIONS VALUES AND IDENTITY WERE JUDGED BY ITS JUSTICE SYSTEM
WHAT WOULD OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM SAY ABOUT US AS A NATION ?
Life without parole is considered in America to be “the second most severe penalty permitted by law.” It is viewed by many as “more humane to execute an individual than to keep them in prison until they die of old age or disease.” Recently, the Supreme Court made the following statement in ruling that it was cruel and unusual to sentence a juvenile to life without parole for a crime not involving murder:
“It is true that a death sentence is ‘unique in its severity and
irrevocability,…yet life without parole share some characteristics
with death sentences that are shared by no other sentences. The
state does not execute the offender sentenced to life without parole,
but the sentence alters the offender’s life by a forfeiture that is
irrevocable. It deprives the convict of the most basic liberties
without giving hope of restoration, except perhaps by executive
clemency—the remote possibility of which does not mitigate the
harshness of the sentence…As one court observed in overturning
a life without parole sentence for a juvenile defendant, this sentence
means denial of hope; it means that good behavior and character
improvement are immaterial; it means that whatever the future might
hold in store for the mind and spirit of the convict, he will remain in
prison for the rest of his days.”
Though this passage was, indeed, stated in a case involving a juvenile defendant, there is a consensus that such logic and concerns apply equally to first time and/or non-violent drug offenders serving life without parole.
The United States incarcerates more of its people (over 2 million) than any country in the world. Lihn Vuong, et al, The Extravagance of Imprisonment, Revisited, Judicature Sept – Oct, 2010
If African – Americans and Latinos were sentenced in the United States at the same frequency at which whites were sentenced the prison population would be cut in half. United States District Judge Jack B. Weinstein.
The lifetime likelihood of serving a state or federal prison term for a white male born in 2001 was 6.6% while for black male child it was a staggering 32.3%. Am.L.Inst., Model Penal Code: Sentencing XX – XVI (2011)
African – Americans serve almost as much time in federal prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). Hearing at House Judiciary Committee Crime held on May 21, 2009.