This briefing examines the use of life imprisonment worldwide, including the increasing trend of life imprisonment without the possibility of release, or life without parole (LWOP).
Emerging trends indicate an increase in the number of offences carrying the sanction of life imprisonment, a greater prevalence of indeterminate sentencing, a reduction in the use of parole, and the lengthening of prison terms as a whole. The abolition of the death penalty has played a significant role in the increased use of life imprisonment sentences, and LWOP in particular. Conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners serving life sentences are often far worse than those for the rest of the prison population and more likely to fall below international human rights standards. Life imprisonment, particularly life without the possibility of release, is contributing to the overuse of imprisonment, a phenomenon underpinned by the belief that prisons represent the panacea to problems of crime and social control.
This briefing reviews the use of life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty.
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