Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Exit: The Expanding Use Of Life Sentences In America

National Report: 1 in 11 Prisoners Serving a Life Sentence - 140,000 in State and Federal Prisons

  • Life without parole sentences triple since 1992, now at 41,095
  • U.S. only nation with juveniles serving life without parole sentences, 1,755 nationally
  • Disproportionate life imprisonment: Two-thirds of persons serving life sentences are racial and ethnic minorities

Washington, DC
A new report released by The Sentencing Project finds a record 140,610 individuals are now serving life sentences in state and federal prisons, 6,807 of whom were juveniles at the time of the crime. In addition, 29% of persons serving a life sentence (41,095) have no possibility of parole, and 1,755 were juveniles at the time of the crime.

No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America represents the first nationwide collection of life sentence data documenting race, ethnicity and gender. The report's findings reveal overwhelming racial and ethnic disparities in the allocation of life sentences: 66% of all persons sentenced to life are non-white, and 77% of juveniles serving life sentences are non-white.

"Life sentences imposed on juveniles represent a fundamental and unwise shift from the longstanding tradition that juveniles are less culpable than adults for their behavior and are capable of change," said Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., Research Analyst of The Sentencing Project and co-author of No Exit.

Other findings in the report include:
  • In five states - Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York -at least 1 in 6 prisoners is serving a life sentence.
  • Five states - California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania - each have more than 3,000 people serving life without parole. Pennsylvania leads the nation with 345 juveniles serving sentences of life without parole.
  • In six states - Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota - and the federal government, all life sentences are imposed without the possibility of parole.
  • The dramatic growth in life sentences is not primarily a result of higher crime rates, but of policy changes that have imposed harsher punishments and restricted parole consideration.

The authors of the report state that persons serving life sentences "include those who present a serious threat to public safety, but also include those for whom the length of sentence is questionable." One such case documented is that of Ali Foroutan, currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life for possession of 0.03 grams of methamphetamine under California's "three strikes" law.

The report is released at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two Florida cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole. In Graham v. Florida, 17-year-old Terrance Graham was convicted of taking part in an armed home-invasion robbery while on probation for committing a violent crime when he was 16 years old, and was sentenced to life without parole.In the case of Sullivan v. Florida, Joe Sullivan was convicted of sexual battery committed when he was 13 years old and sentenced to life without parole. Sullivan is now 33 and is severely debilitated by multiple sclerosis.

The Sentencing Project calls for the elimination of sentences of life without parole, and restoring discretion to parole boards to determine suitability for release. The report also recommends that individuals serving parole-eligible life sentences be properly prepared for reentry back into the community.

"Life without parole sentences have proven to be costly and shortsighted," said Ryan S. King, Policy Analyst of The Sentencing Project and report co-author. "Locking up someone for life without any option for release ignores the potential for transformative personal growth and undermines efforts to seek forgiveness and redemption."

The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy for criminal justice reform. Click here to download No Exit.


Nicolecd11 said...

Hi. My name is Nicole and I live in Florida. Recently my husband got intoxicated and blacked out and allegedly robbed a house. he took there items After the fact he got in a vehicle and passed out and got in an accident. When the cops arrived, the guy he got into an accident with said he saw Joel run into the woods with a blanket and then come back. So the cops went into the woods, and found 3 world war 2 rifles. They immediately charged Joel w/ possesion of firearms by felon, since he was in trouble in his younger years of cocaine then violating probation. Anyways, long story short, later on a robbery was called in, then the cops deided to search warrant his car and they found all those people stuff, and also the guns belonged to them also. Because Joel was almost 3 years out of prison for his violation of probation he missed the prisoner reoffender act by 3 months. So the state wanted to charge Joel with robbery of a dwelling while armed, plus possession of stolen property and firearm by felon. She wanted mandatory Life which is the only choice w/ the robbery of a dwelling while armed w/ the prr act. No plea. So we had to take it trial. Every lawyer wanted so much money since this was a huge case, and we could only afford a cheap one. There was no finger prints of Joel's on any of the items, nor the guns, nor anything in the house. The guns were never in his possession, they were found a 100 ft away in the woods. Plus there could of been other people involved. Joel was found guilty. During his sentencing, we thought we found a loop whole in the law, if the vivtims came and said they didn't want Joel to get life, that the judge could oversee the mandatory life sentence. For some odd reason, our judge had the 2007 law book, and our law was 2009...wierd, but he said it was up to the state to except the vivtims, and thats the only way he could over rule it. You could to tell the judge was so sad for Joel, and was trying everything. The state didn't budge, and he had to sentence Joel to Life. I am not sure what Life means, people say its forever, then i also hear its 25 years. We are trying to appeal, but hopefully this crappy lawyer appeals it right. I think this is a sad story, because he is not a monster in any way. Ifanyone has any views or insights or anything to help or just discuss of this, it will be very greatful. I also included below a letter and what i said in front of the judge in tears. I thought it was outstanding, and i believed it touched the judges as well.

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