It is quite unfortunate that the justice system would sentence Individuals to Life without possible parole (LWOP) which is a clear condemnation to die in the prison. Facts have proved that LWOP is severe, swift, and certain punishment. It is a reality that these individuals indeed end up dying in prison due to natural causes as the ones who have been sentenced to death (Foucault, 1975). Someone being sentenced to death through means of execution is more expensive as compared to sentencing someone so that they may die in prison. It will be just impossible to fix a terrible mistake if a person sentenced to death appears to be not guilty of a crime. If a mistake is made and an innocent person is sentenced to death then, it will be impossible to fix. There has been no one person who was sentenced to LWOP released on parole. All individuals with this kind of sentence end up dying in prison.
“Death penalty and any other sentence are equally subjected to the clemency which comes from the governor. There has never been a Republican or Democratic governor who has granted clemency to any prisoner that has been sentenced with LWOP.” (The Truth About Life Without Parole, 2011) And these kinds of prisoners will never be released on parole. It is quite unfortunate that the last time it was observed a governor using executive powers inclemency was a murder case when President Ronald Reagan was still in the white house. The death sentence of an ill inmate, who was considered insane or mentally challenged, was commuted. The governors have failed to prove that there may be cases that can be revised. Giving someone a sentence of LWOP is just telling them they can go to prison and die. This has a very negative reaction towards the person who has been sentenced and their families. The question will always remain; can the governors use their executive power of clemency to cases that can be revised?
If the government and the justice institution will continue to issue LWOP especially to juveniles and cases that are unreasonable for this kind of sentencing then, the people will begin to lose trust in the system because the penalty is very severe and extreme. This kind of reaction will mostly come from the families of the offenders. Some cases are ruled and indeed the offenders were never supposed to be given a sentence as severe as LWOP. The justice system had recently shifted towards stronger punishment policies which have been seen to mark not only through increased use of the death penalty but increasing the offenders which also include juveniles that have committed an offense before their 18th birthday and given a sentence of LWOP (Wright, 1990).
There are only a few states in America that prohibit LWOP from offenders who are younger than 16. These states include Oregon, Indiana, and Washington DC. Unlike the death penalty, LWOP sentences have no special consideration towards the appeal. This also limits the possibility of reversal or reduced sentences. Someone who has been sentenced to die only receives one automatic appeal. This is done without the provision of a court-appointed attorney. Just after the completion of the appeal, it is usually within 2 years before the initial sentence. “LWOP usually allows victims or survivors to be able to move on instead of being trapped for decades just to have a court hearing and to wait for their execution to occur” (The Truth About Life Without Parole, 2011). According to this reason, the survivor of the victim who has been murdered sometimes thinks that the system only makes their pain harder without any solution that they require compared to LWOP sentences which allows them to get over knowing that justice is indeed being served.
LWOP provides the victims, as well as survivals with the opportunity to avoid endless court hearings and waiting for the execution.
Spending a minimal amount of your time in an overcrowded prison is very dangerous and unpleasant. “Having to spend in such a prison, growing sick, old and even dying is an experience that is horrible” (Bruton, 2004). This fact is convincing evidence, especially, because there is no provision of sufficient and quality healthcare. Prisoners who are sentenced with LWOP are never provided any special treatment. They also have little access to prison programs as compared to other prisoners. They are mostly locked in a very high-security facility with very minimal privileges. Relatives are restrained from visiting them also they are kept away from crowded cell groups. It has always been said that LWOP saves money (Walsh, 2000).
The death penalty is more expensive as compared to condemning someone so that they may die in prison. “If a prisoner is being housed on death row, according to the California taxpayers, there would be an addition of 90,000 dollars per prisoner annually” (Walsh, 2000). This figure is above that which would cost to imprison in the general population which is up by 59 million dollars annually. The new death row price tag is 336 million dollars for the state of California. All of this might be prevented if sentenced to death people are given a sentence of LWOP and thus, are shifted to the general public. This is an excuse for the government to terminate LWOP sentences. The justice system would rather give an LWOP sentence so that the annual spending of the government would be below. This is misusing the sentenced punishment and the governors should be able to operate their authority to clemency.
Bruton, J. (2004). Big House: Life inside a Supermax Security Prison. New York, NY: Voyageur Press.
Foucault, M. (1975). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York, NY: Random House.
The Truth About Life Without Parole: Condemned to Die in Prison. (2011). ACLU of Northern California. Web.
Walsh, N. (2000). Life in Prison without Possibility of Release. Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, 1.
Wright, J. H. (1990). Life without Parole: An Alternative to Death or Not Much of a Life at All? New York, NY: Random House.