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The Beginning of the End for Life Without Parole?

10 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2010  

Michael M. O'Hear

Marquette University - Law School

Date Written: October 27, 2010


This essay introduces a new issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter that is devoted to different aspects of the sentence of life without parole. An important question raised by many of the articles is whether LWOP, after two decades of explosive growth, is entering a period of decline. For instance, the Supreme Court declared LWOP unconstitutional for most juvenile offenders in May 2010, possibly inaugurating an era of more meaningful constitutional limitations on very long sentences. Additionally, many cash-strapped states have been developing new early-release programs in order to reduce corrections budgets, some of which hold out hope even for LWOP inmates. This Essay considers the likelihood that these and other recent developments will contribute to a decline in LWOP. In the end, none of the developments portend dramatic changes, at least regarding LWOP for adult offenders, although it is possible that LWOP will undergo a period of slow, long-term decline, much as has occurred with the death penalty. After laying out this perspective, the Essay then considers whether the United States ought to welcome such a period of decline.

Keywords: parole, sentencing, life sentence

Suggested Citation

O'Hear, Michael M., The Beginning of the End for Life Without Parole? (October 27, 2010). Federal Sentencing Reporter, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2010; Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 10-43. Available at SSRN:

Michael M. O'Hear (Contact Author)

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

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Milwaukee, WI 53201
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