In the United States, more than 200,000 people are serving life sentences – one out of every seven in prison.

In 2020, The Sentencing Project obtained official corrections data from all States and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to produce their 5th national census on life imprisonment.

Looking at California, about 34,000 (27%) of those incarcerated in our state prisons are serving a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. They represent the vast majority of the men we have worked with over the years at RJ Donovan (San Diego), San Quentin (San Rafael), and CMC (San Luis Obispo) Prisons. 

The recidivism rate for life-sentenced prisoners with the possibility of parole is less than 2%, versus the 65% recidivism rate (3-5 years post-release)  for determined sentenced prisoners. I think these facts demonstrate that life-sentenced prisoners with the possibility of parole present the lowest risk to public safety and repeat offending if released, mainly if they have already served 20 years of a sentence.

The data compiled in this report is astounding as it relates to U.S. mass incarceration, racial inequities, and the wholesale injustices of the federal and states criminal justice and prison systems. Just a glance through it is extremely painful.

I want it to be made clear that you, the reader, pay for this system. Your tax dollars directly fund our justice system. If your interest is in social justice, and you’re drawn to transformative justice, it’s critical that you educate yourself regarding these issues.

You can read the report in its entirety here: