Thousands of Americans Are Serving Life Sentences for Nonviolent CrimesS

A new investigation by the ACLU has found more than 3,000 people in this country who are serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent crimes, like drugs or theft. Unless something changes, these people will die in prison.

The ACLU's nationwide analysis turned up 3,278 people serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes across the nation. (Most of them are federal prisoners. Only nine individual states provided these statistics to the ACLU, so the real total could be higher.) They calculate that it will cost taxpayers nearly $1.8 billion to keep these people in jail until they die. The vast majority of the group—almost 80%—are in jail for nonviolent drug crimes. Of those, four out of five are victims of mandatory sentencing laws that left judges with no choice.

About two thirds of these prisoners are black, and another 15% are Latino.

Among the drug crimes that people cataloged in the ACLU report committed which sent them to prison for life without parole: possession of a single crack rock, possession of about an ounce of weed, possession of "a bottle cap containing a trace, unweighable amount of heroin," and "sharing several grams of LsD with Grateful Dead concertgoers."

I encourage you to read the full report, including the profiles of dozens of people who are locked in prison until death, and ask yourself if we should be proud to call this this American system of justice.

[The full report. Image via AP]