Judith Lichtenberg
Georgetown University
On Life Without the Possibility of Parole

Over 40,000 people in the United States today serve life without parole sentences—more than triple the number in 1992. This figure understates the case, since parole has become increasingly rare for the 140,000 prisoners serving life sentences that ostensibly permit parole. After reviewing the central facts about LWOP, and its uneasy relationship with the death penalty, I argue that life without the possibility of parole should be abolished. Of the standard justifications for punishment only retributivism can hope to justify LWOP, and it fails. There are several possibilities: either retributivism should be rejected altogether, or acceptable forms of it do not entail LWOP; perhaps acceptable forms in fact prohibit it. I argue that LWOP is incompatible with the possibility of redemption and other values we should embrace. Dispensing with the hope and the potential for moral reformation is bad not only for those who serve life without parole sentences but for the rest of us as well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Taliaferro 1103