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There are different punishments that are handed out to criminals when they are found guilty of breaking the law. Imprisonment is usually the most common form of punishment, but it can vary in its degree of severity. The life sentence has been in effect for a long time throughout the world. In the United States, life sentence has been in force in all the states except Alaska. Life imprisonment without parole became an upgrade of the life sentence from a case dating back to 1960. The life sentence without the possibility of parole is also referred to as a determinate life sentence.
A particular case dating back to 1954 brought about the precedence that is followed in determining cases today. The military court-martial sentenced one Master Sergeant Maurice Schick to death for the murder of an 8 year old girl. By this time, the life sentence was the maximum penalty available for a conviction. After a review done six years later by President Eisenhower, the sentence was commuted to life sentence with hard labor without the option of parole. The president made it clear that the convict was to have no rights, benefits or claims as would have been the case had it been under the parole and suspension or remission of sentence laws of the United States (Hessin, Victor. 13). Following the presidential orders, the convict challenged the conviction the following year in the Supreme Court alleging that it was against the constitution. The presidential orders thus stood and Sergeant Schick’s case became the first of many life sentences without parole as seen today. Normally, a convict serving life imprisonment is eligible for parole anytime after serving a decade behind bars. A conviction of life without parole means that the convict loses this right and thus is supposed to remain behind bars for the rest of his life. Death is the only medium that could get him out.
As of today, more and more states have adopted the life without parole sentence and so far 34 states practice it. Life sentence without parole has seen an increase in the cases of convictions in the last decade. Studies done showed that of all the convicts serving life sentences in the prison system today, 26.3% are facing a life sentence without parole. The statistics show that the rise in this numbers has been quite steady from a modest 17.8% in 1992. Some states have worrying statistics on their conviction rates. Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maine, Illinois, Louisiana and South Dakota have all the life cases from handed out in their justice system being life sentences without the possibility of parole. Other states like Michigan, Alabama, Florida and California have more than a thousand convicts each, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Changes in the policies practiced by these states have led to the rise in the number of convictions. The rules and laws have become more flexible and accommodating to this type of sentencing. The result has been a considerable increase in prison time for lifers. Contrary to popular opinion, the rise has had nothing to do with an increase in the number of violent crimes. The number of people being convicted of violent crimes has not increased by significant numbers over the years to bring about a change in the type of conviction possible.
The conviction of life without parole has also been in force in juvenile convictions. Rights groups have been holding demonstrations all over the United States to lobby against the convictions on minors. Their argument was that these juveniles had not even been committed of crimes like murder but still had the life without parole sentence handed down to them. Some quarters have argued that if it is not a crime of murder, then the life without parole conviction becomes too harsh a crime (Hessin, Victor. 23). As a result, the Supreme Court began deliberating on the degree of justification for juvenile convictions that do not include murder. This was done in 1999, and being the state with the highest number of juvenile convictions, Florida was the state in focus for the deliberations. In defense of the sentence, some law makers argued that not only through a murder can one inflict the highest level of pain on humans. Taking away life is the worst a crime anyone can do, but rape victims also experience a similar level of pain since to them something is stolen and taken away that cannot be replaced. Thus, even rapists deserve the life without parole sentence.
In 2005, The New York Times carried out a survey done with the intention of finding out the number of people around American prisons’ were serving lives without parole sentences. Their findings were as startling as they were shocking. Almost one in every ten prisoners is serving a life sentence, which made about 132,000 prisoners. In 1993, the Times had carried out a similar survey and had found that just about 20% of all lifers had stood no chance of parole. Ten years later, this number had risen to 28%. Among the statistics is that fact that there is an average of 2,500 juveniles on life without parole sentences in prisons across the United States today. Pennsylvania leads the pack with 444 sentenced juveniles in its prisons. Only six states in the United States oppose the conviction of juveniles with life without parole sentences (Fleck, Rick.3). It is also a startling reality that only the United States sentences juveniles to life without parole. Human Rights Watch has been campaigning to have this overturned but they have not had any positive progress in the quest.
It has been argued that most of those who are given the life without parole penalty are multiple and repeat offenders and those who commit murder. However, in some cases other crimes that have impacted on the majority of people and broken people’s hearts have also seen this conviction handed out. Juvenile offenders especially those below the age of 15 have been having campaigns held on their behalf to see to it that the life without parole sentence is abolished in cases less than murder. The Human Watch Group has argued that for over a century, the juvenile system has seen the reformation of former criminals. According to them, there is no justification to this sentencing in the case of juveniles. Nebraska is in the process of lobbying for the abolition of this sentence to juveniles in the state.
From the information above, it is but clear that as much as the life without of parole sentence is being handed out, more and more people want it scrapped from the reform system. The issue is especially in defense to the sentencing of minors. However, there is clear understanding and agreement that repeat offenders and those who are charged with murder should face the full penalty according to the law. Taking one’s life is the ultimate crime that in turn deserves the ultimate sentence on the offender. Repeat offenders should also be removed from the society for the pain they cause onto others and since we abolished the death sentence in most states, this is the only way to go. It is a more merciful conviction than having one sentenced to be killed. These criminals have no mercy or consideration when they are committing a crime and the same should be taken into account when passing their sentences.