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Life without Parole

America's New Death Penalty?

Edited by Charles Ogletree Jr.

Publication Year: 2012

Is life without parole the perfect compromise to the death penalty? Or is it as ethically fraught as capital punishment? This comprehensive, interdisciplinary anthology treats life without parole as “the new death penalty.” Editors Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. and Austin Sarat bring together original work by prominent scholars in an effort to better understand the growth of life without parole and its social, cultural, political, and legal meanings. What justifies the turn to life imprisonment? How should we understand the fact that this penalty is used disproportionately against racial minorities? What are the most promising avenues for limiting, reforming, or eliminating life without parole sentences in the United States? Contributors explore the structure of life without parole sentences and the impact they have on prisoners, where the penalty fits in modern theories of punishment, and prospects for (as well as challenges to) reform.

Published by: NYU Press


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Ttle Page, COpyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The work contained in this book was first presented at a conference at Amherst College on December 3–4, 2010. We are grateful to our contributors for their fine work and commitment to our project and to Matthew Brewster and Heather Richard for their skilled research assistance. ...

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Introduction: Lives on the Line: From Capital Punishment to Life without Parole

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pp. 1-24

Writing in October 2005, New York Times reporter Adam Liptak observed that “in just the last 30 years, the United States has created something never before seen in its history and unheard of around the globe: a booming population of prisoners whose only way out of prison is likely to be inside a coffin ...

Part I: Life without Parole in Context

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1. Mandatory Life and the Death of Equitable Discretion

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pp. 25-65

The common refrain is that the death penalty is different, but one of the most underappreciated differences between capital and noncapital punishment is the degree to which the death penalty expressly admits— indeed requires—an equitable determination before imposition. ...

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2. Death-in-Prison Sentences: Overutilized and Underscrutinized

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pp. 66-95

Over 41,000 people in the United States are serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).1 In total, more than 140,600 people are serving some form of life imprisonment.2 The data do not include the unknown number of people sentenced to prison terms that exceed their natural life expectancy. ...

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3. Creating the Permanent Prisoner

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pp. 96-137

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people churn through the great revolving door of the American penal system. In 2006 alone, more than 840,000 people were convicted of felonies and sentenced to some period of confinement.1 Of these, approximately 460,000 were sent to state prison, with an average sentence of 4 years and 11 months.2 ...

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4. Life without Parole under Modern Theories of Punishment

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pp. 138-166

Almost 10% of U.S. prisoners are serving life terms. In some states the figure is 17% or more; in California it is 20% of all prisoners.1 Of the prisoners sentenced to life terms, almost 30% have no possibility of parole, and the number of prisoners serving life without parole (LWOP) has tripled in the past sixteen years.2 ...

Part II: Prospects for Reform

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5. Defending Life

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pp. 167-189

I have never been a defense lawyer, let alone a capital defense lawyer. Before becoming a law professor, however, I was a prosecutor. At the time, my feet were “firmly” planted on the side of seeking death.1 The invitation to contribute to this book has prompted me to reflect on those days and on capital punishment’s often-neglected step-sister, ...

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6. Life without Parole and the Hope for Real Sentencing Reform

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pp. 190-226

In recent years, people seeking to limit the use of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) in the United States have won significant victories. The Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida declared a sentence of LWOP unconstitutionally cruel and unusual for juveniles who commit nonhomicide offenses. ...

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7. No Way Out? Life Sentences and the Politics of Penal Reform

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pp. 227-281

The Great Recession has raised expectations that the United States will begin to empty its jails and prisons because it can no longer afford to keep so many people behind bars.1 As Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association in August 2009, the country’s extraordinary incarceration rate is “unsustainable economically.”2 ...

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8. Dignity and Risk: The Long Road from Graham v. Florida to Abolition of Life without Parole

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pp. 282-310

America at the start of the 21st century stands out as a nation that embraces harsh and degrading punishments. This goes beyond our quantitative penchant for locking up a far higher portion of our citizens than any other country, to the qualitative way we punish.1 Evidence for this qualitative distinction abounds. ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 311-312


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pp. 313-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780814762493
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814762479
Print-ISBN-10: 0814762476

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 794412994
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Life without Parole

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Subject Headings

  • Parole -- United States.
  • Life imprisonment -- United States.
  • Capital punishment -- United States.
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