Criminal Justice

1 in 10 Prisoners Serving Life, But State Budget Woes May Bring Some Relief


More prisoners than ever before were serving life terms in 2008—a total of 140,610 out of 2.3 million inmates, or nearly 1 in 10, according to a report released today by the Sentencing Project, which advocates the elimination of life terms without the possibility of parole.

Two-thirds are Latino or black, and although most have been convicted of violent crimes, some were not, reports the New York Times.

State budget woes could help pressure for relief, however. California, which is struggling to close a massive budget deficit, has the nation’s largest prison system and the highest number of inmates serving life—34,164. That number is three times as high as in 1992, the newspaper reports.

The state plans to release 27,000 inmates early, under a controversial plan to deal with a $26.3 billion deficit, reports the Los Angeles Times. It isn’t clear exactly how the early-release plan would operate, although the newspaper says those who have made progress toward rehabilitation would be rewarded by having their sentences cut.

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