Death by Incarceration: Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) | Global Research


Death by Incarceration: Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) | Global Research

Death by Incarceration: Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP)

Global Research, August 07, 2014

In the past twenty plus years, a new criminal sanction has found its way into statutes in at least forty plus states: a life sentence without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Although life sentences have been common in all states, there had always been a mechanism for releasing prisoners when it was determined that they had served long enough.

Some have argued that LWOP serves as an “alternative” to the death penalty, and that the LWOP option has the effect of reducing the number of death sentences. Yet we have seen the populations on death row continue to skyrocket at the same time that more and more people are sentenced to LWOP. In other words, the death penalty often serves as a lightening rod for criminal justice reformers, who tend to see anything less than death as humane. However, life without the possibility of parole is used as a sanction not only for capital cases, but as a sanction for a wide variety of offenses. No Western European Country has such a penalty except Britain, which has twenty or so people serving life without parole, whereas California has five thousand plus prisoners with LWOP and nationwide we have fifty thousand plus prisoners with LWOP. The United States has 40 plus states with LWOP laws. LWOP is costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Life without the possibility of parole makes no allowances for changed behavior, or for reconsideration of the gravity of an offense. It throws away the key without mercy. Like the death penalty, it is a clear signal that “our” criminal justice system has given up any goal or possibility of rehabilitation. Although prisoners have continued to appeal to courts for redress, the limitations that have been placed on habeas corpus drastically limit legal appeals for wrongful imprisonment. In my many years of work with other prisoners, I have seen people change, and I have seen first hand the extent to which peoples lives are wasted in prison – through enforced idleness, abuse, neglect, and societal attitudes of revenge. As a society, we need to find a more productive way to deal with our outrage at violent crimes. By giving in to the appetite for revenge, our death – penalty and life without the possibility of parole system encourages media, politicians, prosecutors, police, prison guards, victims right groups, and others to appeal to what is arguably the most primitive strain in humanity.

l have worked closely with many prisoners families, whose lives are deeply and often irrevocably affected. Many human and civil rights organizations have documented the many ways the court and law enforcement systems are highly discriminatory and disproportionately punish poor people and people of color. What would Jesus do?

Present criminal justice policy demonstrates that we as a society do not believe that offenders can repent, show remorse, and work toward healing themselves and their relationships. When the weakest or most impoverished among us does not experience the support or sustaining balance of a healthy society, we are not a just society. Just as when survivors of serious crime are unheard, marginalized, or exploited, when offenders suffer the unending isolation of our prisons We can hardly lay claim to justice. In fact, any ideology that demands the intentional increase in suffering rather than its diminution can hardly lay claim to justice.

We as a society have imprisoned more than two million of our brothers and sisters and put in place structures and institutions that continue to punish and torture them for the entirety of their lives. Our comfort with punishment, revenge and torture should alarm us and make us ask ourselves profound questions about who we are as a people. We have legalized our desire for revenge in our criminal code. If this makes us uncomfortable, it should. How far should the state go to satisfy some peoples craving for revenge? ls legal murder through the death penalty and the other death penalty- Life without the possibility of parole the end point? Do we still really believe that revenge brings balance to our communities? What would Jesus do?

In conclusion, I recognize that there are people who are so dangerous that they need to be separated from society, but they do not number in the millions. They may not even number in the thousands. Secure, humane institutions should be established where these relatively few individuals can live their lives safely separated from society, but always with the potential for repentance and possible reintegration. They should have every opportunity to develop themselves and contribute to society; they should be separated, but not punished or tortured. Whatever you think about the death penalty, which also includes life without the possibility of parole (LWOP); a system that will take life must first give justice. In other words, you cannot do a wrong thing in a right way.

Our vengeance-soaked culture is in desperate need of being called to higher moral and spiritual ground. Survivors of murder victims need to be free to do their grieving in natural, human ways not skewed and distorted by sensationalist media, opportunistic politicians, and cynical prosecutors. They do not need decades of being subjected to the sifting tides of the judicial systems appellate process in the futile search for closure via another premeditated killing, this time by the state. What would ]esus do?

And finally, I acknowledge the difficulty in moving beyond revenge, punishment and torture, as we currently live in a violence – and revenge ridden culture. But just as the first step toward healing comes with truth telling, the first step advocates of social change must take is to articulate a different reality.

In order for a true discussion of forgiveness/ restorative justice to take place, all of us – not just survivors of crime – must learn to see those who commit crime as human beings. It is easy not to forgive or restore when applying the assumption that the person who has caused harm is less than human, incapable of doing otherwise or of changing for the better. Only by re-humanizing those who commit crime is forgiveness / restorative justice (healing) possible. Life without the possibility (LWOP) is a living death, and is cruel and most unusual to say the least.

What better prisoner to have in these slave factories than prisoners with life without the possibility of parole as there is no turnover rates to worry about! You can literally work prisoners to death.

I believe that every person has the potential to respond to Gods initiative. As a society, which claims to be largely “Christian and/ or religious – we must create conditions that foster and nurture such an understanding. Life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is incompatible with this vision. It removes hope from the lives of prisoners and their families and assumes that peoples lives are irredeemable. It also precludes the possibility of the society as a whole changing in its punitive, revengeful stance toward offenders. What would Jesus do?

Life without the possibility of parole (LWOP – The Other Death Penalty) is the ultimate form of injustice carried out in the name of justice and is an offense to human decency and is in fact a blatant human rights violation.

A test of morality is what a society does to its prisoners…

Nature of the Prison System

The prison system in California has become a larger and larger economic force; guard unions have also become a larger political force.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) is the second largest contributor to California political campaigns and a powerful lobbyist for prison expansion. CCPOA and guards organization in most other states now fund a number of retributive crime-victims groups that join the guards in lobbying for longer sentences, harsher prison conditions i.e., super-max housing units – SHU an expansion of the death penalty i.e., Life Without the Possibility of Parole also known as The Other Death Penalty – (LWOP).

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

In other words, the United States has not abolished slavery; it simply transferred it into the prisons.

Prison slavery in the form of Involuntary Labor is real, every day inside California and America in general (public and private). Are we okay with this as a so-called democratic society?

Correspondence: Troy T. Thomas, I-Lo1001, FAB2-209U
CSP-LAC PO. Box 4430
Lancaster, California 93539

Copyright © 2014 Global Research

The Horrors Endured by Transgender Women in Prison


Seven Days in Solitary [7/27/14]

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Seven Days in Solitary [7/27/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts.

• Footage obtained by the Colorado Independentshows excessive force being used against a man who was placed in solitary after exhibiting suicidal behavior. The man was being monitored in his cell before a team of officers entered and proceeded to tase him. The Colorado Independent notes that this episode is representative of many examples of excessive force in Denver’s jails.

• A ruling on July 24th by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley granted class-action status on behalf of 125,000 people held in California’s prisons in a lawsuit accusing prison officials of racial discrimination. As Reuters reports, during lockdowns men of similar ethnicities are often contained to their cells for days, months or years often…

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What Happens to Babies Born in Jail?

What Happens to Babies Born in Jail?

They don’t all grow up to star on ‘Gossip Girl.’

May 29, 2012

Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

Gossip Girl actress Leighton Meester’s success must have been completely unimaginable to her parents when she was born. The Gossip Girl’s mother, Connie Meester, probably had lesser outcomes in mind when she gave birth to Leighton while beginning a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in Texas for drug smuggling.

Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of women in U.S. prisons are mothers, there is still no national policy that dictates what should happen to the more than 2,000 children that are born behind bars each year.

Where do these babies go? Up until the 1950s, prison nurseries were the norm in most states; so most were raised behind bars by their mothers. Then came an explosion in the prison population—between 1977 and 2007, the number of women in prison increased by 832 percent—leaving states unable to afford the prohibitive $24,000 cost of raising a baby in jail. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of incarcerated mothers are now forced to either give up their child to foster care or place the kids with relatives.

Recently, a handful of states have begun experimenting with nursery programs and community-based residential parenting programs. Competition for spots is fierce, and only mothers who are serving short sentences for non-violent crimes are eligible. While the length of stay varies from state to state (at the South Dakota Women’s Prison babies are only allowed to stay for 30 days, while at the Washington Correctional Center it’s three years), the results have been unanimously positive: one survey showed that 95 percent of mothers felt they had a stronger bond after the program, and all agreed that other states should adopt similar programs.

The evidence supporting mothers raising their children in jail is extensive. Increasingly, studies are showing that the first two years of a baby’s life are critical for the mother-child bond, and babies bereft of that bond are more likely to display troubled behavior later on. In addition, women who are allowed to raise their children in jail are much less likely to return to crime. One study of the Nebraska Correctional Center found that 33 percent of women who had been separated from their children ended up back in jail, versus just 9 percent of women who were allowed to raise their children.

Across the world, many countries seem to agree that a baby’s place is with its mother. In Sweden, babies can be accommodated for up to a year (the average stay is three months). In most European countries, mothers are allowed to keep their infants through weaning. Prisons in India are required to offer nurseries and day care for mothers and their children. In Chile, jail-born children begin taking state-run educational programs at six months of age. In Mexico, children are required to stay with their mothers until they’re 6 years old, and have the freedom to leave on weekends and holidays.

For those who balk at the thought of infants being raised behind bars, Germany represents a common sense compromise. There, qualified mothers are allowed to leave prison every morning to see their children off to school, spending the day doing housework and preparing meals for their children. At the end of the day, the women return to the jail to sleep. Their waking hours are spent fostering a stable, nurturing environment for the next generation, one that won’t have to remember a childhood spent behind bars.

Grandmother Receives Life In Prison For First-Time Drug Offense

Originally posted on

Grandmother Receives Life In Prison For First-Time Drug Offense

Why is Elisa Castillo being so harshly punished for being an unknowing participant in a drug deal?

What is wrong with our justice system? (Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry/flickr)

May 22, 2012

Written by Judy Molland

The federal government didn’t offer a reward for the capture of Houston grandmother Elisa Castillo, nor did it accuse her of touching drugs, ordering killings or getting rich off crime.

But three years after a jury convicted her in a conspiracy to smuggle at least a ton of cocaine on tour buses from Mexico to Houston, the 56-year-old first-time offender is locked up for life, without the possibility of parole.

Three years ago, Elisa Castillo entered into an unusual business arrangement at the urging of her boyfriend: a Mexican businessman agreed to partner with her to purchase three tour buses that…

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Marissa Alexander denied ‘stand your ground’ hearing

News4JAX 266x99 (Updated)

Marissa Alexander denied ‘stand your ground’ hearing

Judge: ‘New evidence’ isn’t really new

Author: Marques White, Weekend morning anchor, reporter,
Adrienne Moore, Weekend anchor, reporter,
Published On: Jul 21 2014 09:46:51 AM EDT   Updated On: Jul 21 2014 09:15:24 PM EDT
Unexpected turn for Marissa Alexander

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A motion for a second “stand your ground” hearing for Marissa Alexander has been denied, in a ruling made Friday by Judge James Daniel.

Alexander’s new defense lawyers argued they had new evidence to present, including a recanting of statements made by the son of Alexander’s estranged husband, the night she fired a shot into the wall next to where he was standing with both sons…

Read more:

Federal report finds Alabama prison ‘toxic,’ female inmates abused

Federal report finds Alabama prison ‘toxic,’ female inmates abused

By Bill Mears, CNN

January 23, 2014 — Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)

Justice Department issues scathing report on Tutwiler Prison
Says corrections agency has violated women’s constitutional rights
Corrections chief says that DOJ findings are “off the mark”

(CNN) — The Justice Department concluded in a blistering report on Wednesday that female inmates at one Alabama prison live in a toxic environment marked by sex abuse and harassment by corrections staff.

The Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Alabama Department of Corrections has repeatedly violated the women’s constitutional rights at the Julia Tutwiler Prison.

The state was urged to take immediate remedial steps, but there was no indication the federal government was prepared to take any formal legal action.

“Our investigation has revealed serious systemic operational deficiencies at Tutwiler that have exposed women prisoners to harm and serious risk of harm from staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and sexual harassment,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels.

“These problems have been festering for years, and are well known to Alabama prison officials. Remedying these deficiencies is critical to ensuring constitutionally protected treatment of women prisoners at Tutwiler and will promote public safety,” she said.

In a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley, federal officials said the inmates “universally fear for their safety” and “live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior.”

The alleged violations included “strip shows” and “cross-gender viewing” of female prisoners as they undressed in front of correction staff.

The Justice Department also said female inmates at the facility in Wetumpka, north of the capital of Montgomery, had “inadequate conditions” of confinement and medical and mental health care.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said the findings were “off the mark” and that his agency is cooperating with the Justice Department.

“We have been proactive from the beginning,” Thomas said. “We have never downplayed the significant and serious nature of these allegations. I do not, however, agree that Tutwiler is operating in a deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner.”

Thomas said that his agency will “continue our efforts to implement changes and recommendations with the goal of improving prison conditions and avoiding potential contested litigation.” ….read more …

Thomas said the letter was based on a federal oversight visit from last year, noting improvements have been made.

The state said it was informed in March of last year that the Justice Department was investigating the prison as a civil rights matter.

“The department stands ready to work with the state of Alabama on solving the problems at Tutwiler,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. for the Middle District of Alabama. “The report has identified a very serious and troubling situation at the facility. Action needs to be taken immediately.”

Federal officials said Thomas and his staff have cooperated and have shown “receptivity to concerns raised.”

Sudan death sentence woman ‘freed’

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Sudan death sentence woman ‘freed’

Sudan death sentence woman ‘freed’

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasyMeriam Ibrahim gave birth to a baby daughter in prison

Related Stories

A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for abandoning her Islamic faith has been freed from jail, her lawyer has told the BBC.

Meriam Ibrahim’s death penalty was overturned by an appeal court, the official Suna news agency reported.

She is married to a Christian man and was sentenced under Sharia law to hang for apostasy in May after refusing to renounce Christianity.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, said he was looking forward to seeing her.

He wanted his family to leave Sudan as soon possible, Mr Wani, who is a US citizen, told the BBC Focus on Africa…

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