A sobering new ACLU study finds at least 3,278 inmates in the United States are serving life sentences without possibility of parole for non-violent offenses.
The 240-page study, tellingly titled "A Living Death," details the individuals who are slated to die in prison after being convicted of crimes that, according to the study, range from "stealing a $159 jacket (to) serving as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana."
The 3,278 number covers inmates in the federal system and in nine states that compile relevant statistics; the real number could well be higher.
About 79 percent of the identified prisoners are serving life without parole for non-violent drug crimes. In 83 percent of the cases, judges had no discretion in their sentencing, as they were compelled to sentence under mandatory minimum laws.
The study is replete with statistics and analysis, but it really comes to life with mini-profiles of some of the doomed inmates.