What is a “Life Sentence”? And How Long Is It Usually?
Published on January 28, 2021
Navigating the ins and outs of the legal system can be anything but simple. The justice system’s technicalities are often too difficult for us civilians to comprehend, hence the need for lawyers. One of the things many of us wonder about is the prison life sentence. What does it mean to be sentenced for life? Does a life sentence literally mean you’ll be imprisoned until you die? Keep reading because this article will dissect life sentences and answer these questions.
What is a life sentence?
A life sentence is the imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime for the rest of their natural life or until they are granted parole or commuted to a shorter fixed term. A life sentence refers to an imprisoned term of 15-20 years before being released for parole in most states. It can be quite alarming or confusing hearing a man be “sentenced to life,” only to see them walk as a free man in a decade or two.
The reason behind this is that the defendant may live out the rest of their sentence under parole. Parole is the conditional release of a prisoner to reintegrate into society. These paroles may be supervised or unsupervised, with the former requiring the parolee (released prisoner) to report to them periodically.
In this way, the term life sentence can be a misnomer, leading people to believe that convicts serve their sentence until death. However, other cases sentence prisoners to life without parole, which is the life sentence that most of us believe it to be. Defendants sentenced to life without parole rarely ever get out, as only some kind of clemency can clear them of their sentence.
Who gets life sentences?
Life sentences are given to people who are convicted of grave crimes. The list is long, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, terrorism, severe child abuse, rape, and child rape, to name a few.
Multiple life sentences
You may hear a judge sentence a prisoner to more than one life sentence, and it would seem redundant to have multiple life sentences. After all, each person only has one life. However, multiple life sentences may play a key role in keeping a danger to society behind bars. Let’s say someone is sentenced to 5 different life sentences of 15 years with parole. That person has to serve the sum of their minimum years before any chance of receiving parole. In this case, they’d need to serve a minimum of 75 years before even being considered for parole. If someone is sentenced to multiple life sentences without parole, they have to appeal to the convictions, so at least that one may be overturned.
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About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.