LWOP

thinkprogress.org
Possession Of A Crack Pipe, And Other Small Crimes That Earned Thousands Of U.S. Prisoners Life Without Parole

Life without parole is the harshest U.S. sentence short of death. But thousands are living with that punishment for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug and property crimes.

A man turns himself in when he heard he was wanted for questioning on a drug deal that never went through winds up in prison for life without possibility of parole because he wouldn’t make a plea bargain. Another man steals a wallet and is serving out a life sentence. 

Land of the Free

23 Petty Crimes That Have Landed People in Prison for Life

by Josh Harkinson

As of last year, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 3,200 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes. A close examination of these cases by the ACLU reveals just how petty some of these offenses are. People got life for, among other things…

  • Possessing a crack pipe
  • Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
  • Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
  • Having a single crack rock at home
  • Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
  • Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
  • Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
  • Selling a single crack rock
  • Verbally negotiating another man’s sale of two small pieces of fake crack to an undercover cop
  • Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills that could be used to make methamphetamine
  • Attempting to cash a stolen check
  • Possessing stolen scrap metal (the offender was a junk dealer)–10 valves and one elbow pipe
  • Possessing stolen wrenches
  • Siphoning gasoline from a truck
  • Stealing tools from a shed and a welding machine from a front yard
  • Shoplifting three belts from a department store
  • Shoplifting several digital cameras
  • Shoplifting two jerseys from an athletic store
  • Taking a television, circular saw, and power converter from a vacant house
  • Breaking into a closed liquor store in the middle of the night
  • Making a drunken threat to a police officer while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car
  • Being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm
  • Taking an abusive stepfather’s gun from their shared home

These are not typically first offenses, but nor are they isolated cases. The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules such as these federal standards for drug convictions:

The data examined by the ACLU comes from the federal prison system and nine state penal systems that responded to open-records requests. This means the true number of nonviolent offenders serving life without parole is higher.

What’s clear, based on the ACLU’s data, is that many nonviolent criminals have been caught up in a dramatic spike in life-without-parole sentences.

Among the cases reviewed, the vast majority were drug-related:

And most of the nonviolent offenders sentenced to life without parole were racial minorities.

Obviously, housing all of these nonviolent offenders isn’t cheap. On average, for example a single Louisiana inmate serving life without parole costs the state about $500,000. The ACLU estimates reducing existing lifetime sentences of nonviolent offenders to terms commensurate with their crimes would save taxpayers at least $1.8 billion.

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder unveiled a reform package aimed at scaling back the use of mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders. As Dana Liebelson noted:

[U]nder Holder’s new policy, mandatory minimums as they apply to specific quantities of drugs will no longer be used against offenders whose cases do not involve violence, a weapon, and selling to a minor, and they will also not be used against offenders that do not have a “significant criminal history” and ties to a “large-scale” criminal organization.

Prison reform advocates say Holder’s actions don’t go far enough. They want the Obama administration to commute the sentences of the thousands of nonviolent offenders now locked away forever. And they support legislation such as the Justice Safety Valve Act, a bill introduced in March by Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would enable judges to hand out sentences lower than the mandatory ones.

“Holder’s remarks carry more of a symbolic significance,” says ACLU deputy legal director Vanita Gupta, “but the problem needs to be addressed by Congress.”

LWOP [life without parole], more than any other form of incarceration, imposes a permanent disruption on the marginal and minority communities. It permanently hardens the psychological degradation of distressed minority communities by conveying the message that offenders from these communities are distinctly irredeemable: they must be locked up forever because they could never change.
—  Life Without Parole: America’s New Death Penalty? Ed. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. and Austin Sarat
LIFE GOES ON: THE HISTORIC RISE IN LIFE SENTENCES IN AMERICA

While serious crime rates in the U.S. have been declining for the last 20 years, the number of prisoners serving life sentences has more than quadrupled since 1984. As documented in our new report, over 159,000 people were serving life sentences in 2012, with nearly 50,000 serving life without parole.

Key findings from the report include: One of every nine individuals in prison is serving a life sentence. The population of prisoners serving life without parole (LWOP) has risen more sharply than those with the possibility of parole: there has been a 22.2% increase in LWOP since just 2008. Approximately 10,000 lifers have been convicted of nonviolent offenses. Nearly half of lifers are African American and 1 in 6 are Latino.  More than 10,000 life-sentenced inmates have been convicted of crimes that occurred before they turned 18 and nearly 1 in 4 of them were sentenced to LWOP. More than 5,300 (3.4%) of the life-sentenced inmates are female.

Key findings from the report include:

  • One of every nine individuals in prison is serving a life sentence.
  • The population of prisoners serving life without parole (LWOP) has risen more sharply than those with the possibility of parole: there has been a 22.2% increase in LWOP since just 2008.
  • Approximately 10,000 lifers have been convicted of nonviolent offenses.
  • Nearly half of lifers are African American and 1 in 6 are Latino. 
  • More than 10,000 life-sentenced inmates have been convicted of crimes that occurred before they turned 18 and nearly 1 in 4 of them were sentenced to LWOP.
  • More than 5,300 (3.4%) of the life-sentenced inmates are female.
Read More
nytimes.com
Writing Off Lives (NYT)

“Research shows lengthy sentences do nothing to improve public safety. But these long sentences are turning prisons into geriatric centers where the cost of care is prohibitively high. The practice of routinely locking up people forever — especially young people — also ignores the potential for rehabilitation. The whole trend is deeply counterproductive. States need to encourage more rational sentencing, restore the use of executive clemency and bring parole back into the corrections process.”

religion.blogs.cnn.com
"A killing, a life sentence and my change of heart"

Editor’s note: Jeanne Bishop is the sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, who, along with her husband and their unborn child, was shot to death by a juvenile. Since the murder of her family members, Jeanne Bishop has been an advocate for gun violence prevention, forgiveness and abolition of the death penalty. She is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago.”


I’m not very religious, myself, but this was an interesting read.

Well, it’s been a long, strange trip...

Today is the last day that gardens-of-secrets will be a dynamic, living blog. I’m going to stop adding new posts after I leave the Internet tonight.

Don’t worry – I’m not deleting this blog. I want to preserve it as a resource for future researchers of the Boston Marathon bombing and the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Plus, I added a boatload of cool posts on it and I want to reblog them someday. But I will close the ask box and fan mail.

I’m not leaving Tumblr altogether, either. The post above will show you where to find me. 

On my new blog, I will be open to discussing Jahar on private fan mail. But I won’t answer asks about him. And unless something major happens – if his sentence is commuted to LWOP, or if (alas) he is executed – I’m not going to post about him, either. Jahar look-alikes may show up, but they won’t be tagged as such.

I thank all of the people I’ve interacted with since this blog began in October 2013. It’s been a suspenseful, hilarious, enlightening, contentious, and tragic journey. But now, this blog’s main purpose has come to its inevitable conclusion.

I knew it would. I just didn’t think about it

anonymous asked:

“I don’t think that him coming to terms with the DP will really be all that beneficial.” Why is that?

“Coming to terms” with death is laughable to me, since “coming to terms” with something doesn’t mean you want it to happen. It’s more like waving a white flag. You have no other options left. If you have to come to terms with something, it means that you didn’t think you deserved it, but you have finally realized that there’s nothing more you can do. I don’t see it as something that will be comforting to Jahar. It only seems to be a way of making people on the outside feel comfortable with the idea of executing someone. Plus, Jahar never seemed to be looking for the death penalty. They went to trial only because the govt wouldn’t accept a plea deal for LWOP. And now, I’m assuming he’s going to begin his appeals process, which makes me believe that death is not something he ever wanted. Maybe I’m wrong to say that I want him to get what’s best for him, but I can’t help it. Neither option is good, so he might as well have the punishment that gives him more time to ask forgiveness and mercy from Allah. I don’t think he should feel he deserves death. No one deserves to die. I don’t really believe Tamerlan deserved death either, but that seems like what he wanted, so I would not be as upset about that. Jahar is paying for the crimes of himself and his brother, and even if the law doesn’t see it this way, I don’t think he deserves to be strapped to a table and executed for both their crimes. Sorry I went off on a tangent a bit, but does that make sense?