The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Wednesday, October 4
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


"I can think of no authors more qualified to research the complex impact of life sentences than Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis. They have the expertise to track down the information that all citizens need to know and the skills to translate that research into accessible and powerful prose."
—Heather Ann Thompson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Blood in the Water

From the author of the classic Race to Incarcerate, a forceful and necessary argument for eliminating life sentences, including profiles of six people directly impacted by life sentences by formerly incarcerated author Kerry Myers

Most Western democracies have few or no people serving life sentences, yet here in the United States more than 200,000 people are sentenced to such prison terms.

Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project argue that there is no practical or moral justification for a sentence longer than twenty years. Harsher sentences have been shown to have little effect on crime rates, since people "age out" of crime—meaning that we're spending a fortune on geriatric care for older prisoners who pose little threat to public safety. Extreme punishment for serious crime also has an inflationary effect on sentences across the spectrum, helping to account for severe mandatory minimums and other harsh punishments.

A thoughtful and stirring call to action, The Meaning of Life also features moving profiles of a half dozen people affected by life sentences, written by former "lifer" and award-winning writer Kerry Myers. The book will tie in to a campaign spearheaded by The Sentencing Project and offers a much-needed road map to a more humane criminal justice system.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620974094
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 12/11/2018
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project, a national organization based in Washington, DC, that promotes criminal justice reform. He is the author of Race to Incarcerate, the co-editor (with Meda Chesney-Lind) of Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. Ashley Nellis is a senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project who has written extensively on the prevalence of life sentences in the United States. She lives in Falls Church, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Lessons of "The Birdman" 1

Life by the Numbers 7

Denise Dodson 19

Policies That Drive Life Sentences 25

Anita Colon and Robert Holbrook 37

Doing Life 43

"Death Is Different" 55

Sam Lewis 67

The American Commitment to Punishment 73

The Meaning of Life Around the World 85

William Underwood 95

The Racial Meaning of Life 101

The Meaning of Life for Criminal Justice Reform 111

Kelly Garrett and Justin Singleton 123

The Meaning of Life for Public Safety 129

Enacting a Twenty-Year Maximum Sentence 145

Willis X. Harris 169

The Future of Life in America 175

Author's Note 181

Acknowledgments 189

Notes 191

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews