When we think of people being give a life sentence, we assume it to be a person convicted of murder or another overly violent type of crime. However according to recent studies there is an increasing number of people being given such sentences for non-violent offenses.
Currently in prison on a sentence of "Life without the possibility of parole" are people convicted to trying to sell $10 of marijuana, sharing LSD at a Grateful Dead concert, and even for siphoning gas from a truck! (NYtimes) As of 2012 there were over 3,200 people serving a life sentence for such crimes... how is this possible?
Some states have what is called "3-strike" laws. If a person is convicted of three separate felonies, the judge has no choice but to give them a life sentence. These so-called "mandatory minimum" laws do not allow judges any leeway in what a convict is given as a punishment. It is estimated that those currently serving life sentences for non-violent crimes will cost tax payers a total of more than 1 billion dollars.
Burl Cain, the warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary, claims that the purpose of the Department of Corrections is to correct behavior, not house petty criminals for life... m