Life-with-Hope Sentencing: The Argument for Replacing Life-Without-Parole Sentences with Presumptive Life Sentences
37 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2015 Last revised: 3 Aug 2017
Date Written: February 20, 2015
The United States has over 41,000 people serving life-without-parole (LWOP) sentences. It is a phenomenon unparalleled in the history of the world. This rise is attributable to a strange confluence of (1) the increasing use of LWOP as an alternative to the death penalty, (2) abolition of parole by states as part of truth-in-sentencing reforms, and (3) the rise in mandatory minimum sentences, particularly related to sale and distribution of illegal drugs. Nowhere has a state or federal government examined the appropriateness of LWOP sentences or developed a framework to assess whether an offender warrants such a sentence.
Given the historical thoughtlessness of determining who receives this serious punishment and the wild increase in such sentences, LWOP sentences clearly need reform. This Article attempts to address this epidemic by demonstrating the shortcomings of LWOP and proposing an alternative sentencing model for serious offenders.
This Article, then, argues for the abolition of LWOP sentences. Specifically, the human rights implications of such sentences, the speculative nature of such sentences, and the presence of other sufficient alternatives provide justification for the abandoning of LWOP sentences. Instead, this Article advocates for the adoption of presumptive life sentences as an alternative to LWOP.
In Part I, the Article describes the current LWOP crisis. Part II of this Article makes the case for abolishing LWOP sentences. Finally, in Part III, the Article proposes the adoption of presumptive life sentences as a feasible alternative to life without parole, and demonstrates how such sentences can replace LWOP and end the LWOP epidemic.
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