A life sentence can be death by incarceration. When a person serving life without parole (LWOP/DBI) reforms and rehabilitates his/her life, they should be allowed, “The Right to Redemption” to return to society.  

Life sentenced prisoners have become forgotten and virtually lost within the correctional and criminal justice systems. Only a few dozen “DBI” prisoners have been released in the past 40 years.

It is painfully clear that most “DBI” people will die in prison, unable to demonstrate their changed lives and strong need and desire to become useful citizens in society again. 

Presently, only the commutation procedure is available for LWOP/DBI release. It is a delicate and confusing process which often relies on political consideration, rather than the change in the applicant as recorded with the prison prison record, psychological testing, prison staff opinions, and the applicant’s community support.

LWOP/DBI prisoners believe in, “The Right to Redemption” and the difficulty in being released but concurrently believe that justice dictates fairness and equality in the process. We want a true chance to demonstrate our worthiness to become free, productive citizens again. 

Many charities and worthwhile projects benefit, to a significant degree, as lifers make the effort to atone in the only way open to them: helping others in need. Ordinarily, the news-media is not excited or interested in following these acts of “Redemption”, but the goals are achieved regardless, because the motivation is intact. 

Lifers do react and adapt to the gravity of their crimes and lead exemplary lives once released. A check of the record shows that the Board of Probation and Parole is currently supervising themselves. The bulk of these offenders were commuted in the 1960s and 1970s through the Board of Pardons.

Lifers vary as the community on the outside. Some are serving life sentences having taken no life. Many are genuinely remorseful and their crimes were committed while extremely emotional and simply will not be at risk to commit any further crimes, if released.

Indeed, a study on recidivism of life, conducted by the state government, (Report of the Advisory Committee on Gieriatric and Seriously Ill Inmates at page 81 (2005)), demonstrate that paroled/commuted life recidivism rates, are a tiny fraction (1.01%) of the overall prison recidivism rate. 

Many prisoners who have taken a life, walk the streets every day without incident–those who have served their time for third degree murder and manslaughter. Most times, the only difference between these people and LWOP/BDI people, was an overzealous prosecutor who wanted a harsher sentence, and charged for First degree Murder. 

LWOP/DBI prisoners are not content to merely idle away time and are recognized leaders and activists, as most correctional officials will testify.

Given the opportunity to “The Right to Redemption” and a second chance, based on the lifers prison record, psychological testing, prison staff opinions and the lifers family and community support, should merit a return to society. Life without parole serves no purpose other than, “Death by Incarceration.”

Larry Stephenson

AM 1449

SCI Phoenix

PO Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733