Americans have grown uneasy with our ranking as the world’s leader in incarceration, which has made way for thoughtful discussion and debate around how to reform our sentencing and corrections systems. To adequately measure progress toward ending mass imprisonment, federal and state prison data must become more readily available and transparent. The Sentencing Project embarked on the work of documenting the number of people serving life sentences after observing a large gap in adequate information or concern about expansion of long prison sentences. We now know that long-term imprisonment is a driver of mass incarceration and that one in seven prisoners is serving life. Though all states can provide aggregate figures on populations of prisoners upon request, this information is insufficient to fully understand the life-sentenced population, including shifting dynamics within the population. Going forward, simple access to de-identified administrative prison records can serve as a bridge between policy reform ideas and their implementation.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.