Saturday, October 1, 2005
This New York Times article examines how our country has turned life sentences into true life sentences with more and more individuals dying behing bars.
Defendants facing a potential death sentence often plead to life; those who go to trial and are convicted are sentenced to life about half the time by juries that are sometimes swayed by the lingering possibility of innocence.
As a result the United States is now housing a large and permanent population of prisoners who will die of old age behind bars. At the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, for instance, more than 3,000 of the 5,100 prisoners are serving life without parole, and most of the rest are serving sentences so long that they cannot be completed in a typical lifetime.
About 150 inmates have died there in the last five years, and the prison recently opened a second cemetery, where simple white crosses are adorned with only the inmate's name and prisoner ID number.
What the article fails to address is the health care costs of an increasingly elderly prisoner population. [bm]