Thousands of prisoners across the United States are serving life without parole for committing non violent offenses, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU.)
The ACLU report titled "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses" reveals, the failed, and outdated approach of applying extreme sentences to minor property and drug crimes. It warns that the practice has reached absurd, tragic and costly levels. The study found that at least 3,278 prisoners are serving life sentences for crimes where no one was injured. Of those prisoners, 79 percent were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes such as possession or distribution, and 20 percent of nonviolent property crimes like theft. Of those serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, 65 percent are black, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino---an evidence of extreme racial disparities in the United States. A 2013 study by the ACLU determined that a black person in the United States was 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though both races have similar rates of marijuana use. Critics have lambasted the United States for incarcerating a large number of non-violent and victimless offenders. In 2005, about a quarter of prisoners in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 6,977,700 adults were under correctional supervision-- probation, parole, jail, or prison-- in 2011 - about 2.9 percent of adults in the US resident population.