cover image The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis. New Press, $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-62097-409-4

Mauer (Race to Incarcerate) and Nellis expose the problematic consequences of life sentencing in this well-argued collaboration. Drawing on personal stories (including six profiles of prisoners serving life sentences written by former “lifer” Kerry Myers), research, and years of experience at the Sentencing Project, where they work, they argue that life imprisonment, to which more than 200,000 people are subject in the U.S., is ineffective and costly; violates legal and human rights norms; disproportionately affects marginalized people; and does not meaningfully increase public safety (for example, someone who murdered an abuser and a mafia hit man may receive the same sentence, despite posing very different levels of danger to the public). They note that the U.S. imposes more severe sentences on more people than other developed nations and propose a blueprint for policy change: imposing a 20-year sentencing maximum and establishing more helpful services to ensure convicts are “equipped to reenter society in a meaningful, self-sustaining way.” The authors make a strong case for abolishing life sentencing in this trenchant and urgent book. Photos. (Dec.)