In 2012, as many as 3,278 prisoners in the United States were in prison on life incarceration without the possibility of parole for committing nonviolent offences. Out of these, 79% of the offenders were in prison for drug crimes. Some of the offences that these persons were convicted of are ridiculously minor, and include shoplifting and burglary.
However, due to the excessive application of criminal sentencing laws in this country's justice system, thousands of prisoners have been condemned to a life sentence without parole, and the very real possibility of dying in prison. The social consequences of such unnecessary and extreme incarceration are huge. In most cases, these persons who were sentenced to life incarceration without parole come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. A high proportion of these offenders also happen to be black. These are already people who are struggling to make a living, and when they are incarcerated like this, it simply tears their families apart.
The worst part is that the 3,278 number which was contained in a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union, could possibly be just the tip of the iceberg. The American Civil Liberties Union which researched data for its new report says that the number does not include those prisoners who have been sentenced to life incarceration with the possibility of parole. Such parole is a very far-fetched possibility for these prisoners, as parole boards become more and more reluctant to grant prisoners parole. The number also does not include those prisoners who have been sentenced to stacked life sentences, which would effectively sentence them permanently to a life in prison.
Earlier this year, a report by the Sentencing Project found that one in nine persons imprisoned in this country are serving a life sentence, and those with life sentences who are eligible for parole, are increasingly less likely to be released.