Prisoners serving life sentences at record high, report finds

TALLAHASSEE — Tougher sentencing laws and restrictions on parole in Florida and other states have resulted in a record number of criminals serving life sentences, according to a new national study.

The report by the Sentencing Project found 140,160 individuals serving life terms in state and federal prisons, including 6,607 juveniles, two of them Floridians whose cases are under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Florida, the report said, 11.3 percent of prison inmates are serving life, and 53 percent of them are African American and 19 percent Hispanic. Also, 6,424 Florida inmates are serving life without parole.

"They ought to be raising questions about the rising number of violent felons,'' said Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a Republican running for attorney general in 2010 on a platform that emphasizes public safety. "These people are in prison for a reason,'' he said.

The state with the highest percentage of lifers is California at 20 percent.

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