Meaning of Life : The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences
by Mauer, Marc; Nellis, Ashley; Myers, Kerry (CON)

Introduction: lessons of "the birdman"1(6)
Life by the Numbers
Denise Dodson
Policies That Drive Life Sentences
Anita Colon and Robert Holbrook
Doing Life
"Death Is Different"
Sam Lewis
The American Commitment to Punishment
The Meaning of Life Around the World
William Underwood
The Racial Meaning of Life
The Meaning of Life for Criminal Justice Reform
Kelly Garrett and Justin Singleton
The Meaning of Life for Public Safety
Enacting a Twenty-Year Maximum Sentence
Willis X. Harris
The Future of Life in America
Author's note181(8)

Leading experts on criminal-justice reform offer a call to action to eliminate life sentences, arguing that harsher, longer sentences have little effect on crime rates and older prisoners often pose little threat to public safety. 15,000 first printing.

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.

While battles against the death penalty and for freeing the wrongfully accused from death row garner broad press coverage, the effort to abolish life sentences has largely been overlooked. Mauer and Nellis, who work to promote criminal justice reform, have crafted an impressive blend of statistical analysis and personal experiences to reveal the story of life sentencing in the U.S. While the figures are troubling and should set off alarms, it is the stories that invoke emotional responses. The highlighted cases of people who are sentenced to life for nonviolent crimes, suspect prosecutions, and generally eye-popping reasons will galvanize readers. It will likely not be surprising to see the manner in which race, class, and gender play roles in sentencing, with the harshly incarcerated female victims of domestic violence marking yet another realm of which the #MeToo movement must take notice. Finally, the degree of detail in this well-titled book makes it an excellent resource and of great value to those seeking a way to effect positive social change. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

A study on the counterproductive impact of life sentences.Using startling statistical data, the Sentencing Project executive director Mauer (Race to Incarcerate, 1999, etc.) and Nellis (A Return to Justice: Rethinking our Approach to Juveniles in the System, 2015, etc.), senior research analyst, vehemently defend their crusade against life imprisonment, which is the sentence for a shocking number of inmates in American prisons. This number has been steadily rising over the last half-century despite a substantial decline in violent crime. The authors also argue that prison sentences longer than 20 years have "diminishing returns," with few moral or practical justifications. Bolstering the authors' arguments are six stirring portraits involving life-sentenced convicts, curated by former lifer Kerry Myers, who served nearly 30 years of his life sentence and remains adamant about his innocence. Mauer and Nellis sprinkle the profiles throughout chapters examining detrimental priso n policy choices, racial biases, declining clemency rates, and the negative trends of sentence severity. The authors discuss lifetime terms for juveniles, such as a former Los Angeles gang member convicted of murder in his youth whose productive post-prison life reflects the authors' core argument. Another instructive story is that of a former convict who credits a disciplined work schedule and daily service-animal training as keys to her rehabilitation during incarceration. As with Mauer's Race to Incarcerate, this book is convincingly and meticulously researched while also balanced in its acknowledgement that the issue remains complex and highly controversial. Mauer and Nellis not only build a compelling argument for ending life imprisonment; they also provide strategic public-policy groundwork for enacting a maximum 20-year sentence. They outline recommendations for a "full recalibration of the American sentencing structure" and a prison system-wide overhaul that they bel i eve will increase overall public safety. Readers on both sides of the argument will surely find this book fodder for inspired debate and proactive discussion. A riveting, passionate case against lifetime incarceration and a plea for criminal justice reform. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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