Numbers of Lifers Dramatically Increasing in US Prisons

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Recent studies have found that one in nine American prisoners is locked up for life. This has shown to be an all time record and is still rising throughout the entire country. Researchers are finding that life sentence percentages are rising consistently in almost every state. This being said, California is the leader in lifers having one-quarter of the country’s life-sentenced population. Serving so many life sentences gives way for some concerning economic considerations. The more lifers we put in prison now mean taxpayers will be responsible for higher health care costs in just years time for geriatric prisoners.

Researchers believe that this increase in life sentences is as a result of the enactment of new laws that has slowly changed our perspective of criminals. Because of this, there were around 10,000 prisoners who were serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes in 2012. One past prisoner speaks up about how he believes the prison boom isn’t because of an increase in crime or criminals, but rather it’s because people who are going to prison are staying longer. Studies have shown that longer prison sentences do not deter crime. If Society can realize that some of these people are no longer threats to the public then we can see that there is no reason to keep them in prison. Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst with the sentencing projects says, “We need to separate who we are mad at from who we are afraid of”. As a nation, we need to be aware that there are both financial and psychological consequences due to the growing number of life sentenced prisoners.


Source: David J. Krajicek, “Hard Time: Prisons Are Packed With More Lifers Than Ever”, WHOWHATWHY, September 18 2013,

Student Researcher: Chelsea Pulver (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)