3.3K US Prisoners Serving Life for Non-Violent Crimes
ACLU report slams 'grotesquely' out of whack sentencing
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2013 1:31 PM CST
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(Newser) – When you think of criminals who get locked away for life with no hope of parole, murderers or rapists might come to mind. But a guy who shoplifted a $159 jacket? He is one of 3,278 prisoners serving such a sentence in federal or state prisons in the US for a non-violent crime, the ACLU reports. Most are black men convicted of drug crimes who got caught up in mandatory sentencing laws because of prior convictions, says the report. It also has plenty of cases like Timothy Lee's, the now 53-year-old who got busted for stealing that jacket in 1996, reports the Guardian. Another lifer got put away for siphoning gas.

The US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars," says report author Jennifer Turner. The ACLU wants life sentences abolished for these types of criminals because they are "grotesquely out of proportion to the conduct they seek to punish." The Huffington Post notes that a movement is afoot to ease US drug sentences, with Attorney General Eric Holder calling for a major overhaul in the system earlier this year.

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Nov 15, 2013 3:19 PM CST
"Most are black men " THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING
Nov 15, 2013 2:52 PM CST
I'd like to see the 3 strikes here in NYS but only for felonies, not for petty theft. If the 3 strikes laws were in effect here, the career drug addicts/drug dealers making crystal meth in my building for 4 years, who already have prison time for drug trafficking & murder under their belt, could be sent away permanently. Of course, NYPD would have to leave their stop, frisk & fleece program behind first & return to actual policing. NYPD has been doing this b.s. for so long, many officers probably don't know how to do anything else but stop people for minor infractions. NYPD has become a cross between being glorified meter maids & a goon squad.
Nov 14, 2013 12:44 AM CST
You guys should learn from California's disaster w/3-Strikes & locking people in prison for life for non-violent felonies. We're still in the process of releasing non-violent felons from our over-crowded prisons from the order by the Federal judges to get the prison population here down to reduce the over-crowding. All this has done to this state, the prison building binge we were on for decades, 3-Strikes, locking up people for years/decades for drugs, etc is cause this state to end up with perpetual $20B+ budget shortfalls (& corresponding funding cuts to schools, hospitals, etc as their budgets were sucked into the prisons budget). http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/13/report-thousands-of-nonviolent-americans