Why doesn't a "life" jail sentence mean "life"?

You so often see a murderer jailed for life....... and can expect to be in prison for at least 12 years?

WTH is this about?

Shouldn't a life jail sentence mean a prisoner stays inside until they die?

Update:

Kesh: When you type in capitals, it looks like you're shouting at us.

22 Answers

Relevance
  • 1 decade ago
    Best answer

    I'm with you on this one - life should mean life - or at least re-name it to: The person was jailed for not exactly life but a smallish chunk of his/her life.

  • 1 decade ago

    Actually it depeds on the sentencing. From what I can understand when the DA puts in a 25 to life sentence, it means that the CONVICTED felon can expect a sentencing of anything between 25 years and life in prison. Basically 25 to life is usually what they say before the defendant is convicted. After he or she is convicted, the jury can 'advise' the judge as to what the sentence should be. The judge then takes the jury and the DA's sentences into advisement before the judge makes a ruling to how long the convicted person/s should stay in jail. So if the DA requests 25 to life it means that, s/he wants the convicted felon to be in jail for atleast 25 years and at most life in jail. The judge can go ahead and pick some random number like 44 and it will still be ok, but the judge can also pick a lower number if s/he feels that 25 is too much. It's all up to the preception of the judge, the jury, the DA and the defense.

    Usually convicted felons don't normally serve out their whole term. Usually only about a 1/3 or a 1/4 of their term is served in jail and the rest is what we call parole where they have to go and check in with a shrink and the police every so often. But life in jail usually means that they serve life unless parole is granted where then the convicted felon would serve out the rest of his or her sentence outside jail. But life without parole is usually when the felon cannot appeal for parole but can appeal the decisions.

    This is my interpretation of the life sentence. I may be right or wrong it really depends on so many factors, good behavior and the such. The death sentence is different because you get sent to prision and then death row, this process is so slow you can rot in prision/death row forever and never actually be killed. Usually inmates on death row die from the atrocious living conditions.

  • 1 decade ago

    In the UK a life sentence does mean life. When the sentence is given the judge sets a 'tariff' which is the minimum period the offender must serve in prison before they can be CONSIDERED for parole. Once this period has passed (and assuming further time has not been added for 'bad behaviour', etc.) then the prisoner is eligible to apply for consideration of release on licence to the parole board.

    The parole board consider this application and take evidence from numerous sources as to the prisoner's suitability to be released back into the community. They will consider such things as the risk this person poses, both to individuals and society generally, whether the issues which led to the offending behaviour have been addressed (e.g. anger management courses), signs of acceptance and remorse, etc.

    If the parole is refused, the offender must wait a certain period before they can apply again, and would be advised to address the issues raised by the board as their reason for refusal. If parole is granted the offender is released on licence - which remains for the rest of their life: hence it is a life sentence.

    When someone is on licence they are subject to recall to prison AT ANY TIME, regardless of whether they have committed a further offence or not, if their behaviour, based on the offence for which they were sentenced, shows'cause for concern', or if they breach any licence conditions which have been imposed. Such 'breach' proceedings are generally brought by the Probation Service (working closely with the police) and involve a further court hearing at which point the offender may be subject to immediate recall to prison and the whole cycle starts again.

    The biggest problem with this system is it requires good intelligence gathering and communication between the police and probation service, as well as sufficient resources to continue monitoring of the offender. It is probably here that the system breaks down.

    Whether or not you agree with how this works, it is for these reasons that it is referred to as a life sentence and really does mean life (if not always in prison).

    Of course, there are some people on whom the Home Secretary set a 'whole life tariff' (e.g. The Moors Murders) as their crimes were considered so heinous that it would not be in the public interest that they ever be released. However, the European Court of Human Rights has deemed that the Home Secretatry does not have the power to do this and such tariffs are now open to legal challenge.

    Remember also that in the UK the mandatory sentence for murder is 'life imprisonment'; there being no distinction between the 'type' of murder committed as there is in some other countries. Hence, the tariff allows for some sort of 'distinction' in the circumstances, whilst ensuring all people who are convicted will be subject to a life licence.

    Source(s): Law degree.
  • 1 decade ago

    I believe it should, I also believe there should be set terms for various offences which double if you commit that offence again. If new laws need to be added then they should do so. For instance, we already have murder and manslaughter, which should be interpreted as so:

    Murder - The taking of someones life who has done you no real harm.

    Manslaughter - The taking of someones life who has behaved towards you in such a way that there is a good chance they will kill you.

    There are too many people that get let off murder and charged with manslaughter because they say something like they didn't mean to kill the person when they stabbed him/her. If you stab someone with a knife in the body or head then you must be aware that there is a good chance the person might not survive.

    I also think paedophiles should get life and be put in with the normal prison population.

    Rape is quite hard to prove or disprove in some ways (there are a number of cases where the woman has said rape and it has been found to be false and also where men have gotten off when they shouldn't have) and there can be differing levels of violence. There could then be say three different levels of rape set. With the minimum being 8 years, for those found guilty of it once with no real violence. 16 years for first time with violence and life for anyone commiting the offence more than once.

    Limits like this could be set for most crimes with no more than three different levels being set and the courts having to give one of them. All time should be served as set, I'm not for letting out for good behaviour but more for giving more time for bad behaviour, and as for the ones who can't be given more time, then just put them in solitary and take away their privilages. By doing a system like this you wouldn't have the scenario you have now with one judge giving five years for something and another giving a year for the same crime.

  • What do you think of the answers? You can sign in to give your opinion on the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    The problem with this is that most people who serve a 'life' sentence often come out of jail and don't commit any further crimes. One of the main reasons why people no longer commit crimes is that they get too old for it - parole boards actually have quite an amazing record of accuracy when it comes to releasing people on life licences.

    The problem area is younger people who commit less serious crimes and then go on to 'up the ante'. Most headline crimes are concerned with people who are on remand - awaiting conviction for a robbery and commit a crime while waiting for sentencing - these guys are young and are committing ever worse crimes - but it's difficult to sentence someone young for a long time when their first crime is minor - yet you know that the crimes they are going to commit later will be far worse.

    Keeping most of these people in prison after they are forty or fifty is pointless - the prime age for crime is 18-35: not 50. Releasing older offenders leaves more room for the more dangerous (younger) offenders who really will commit worse offences unless they are stopped.

  • 1 decade ago

    As a police officer i have asked the same question. Some states label a life sentence as 75 years. then they get credit for the time they stayed in jail before conviction, good behavior, jail overcrowding, some bleeding heart goof ball on the parole board, etc. life is only life as a sentence to the victims and their families.

    Source(s): 16 years of LE
  • Totally agree! My mum was murdered 10 years ago. Her murderer got given a life sentence with a tariff of 11 years...How that's life I don't know!! Not only do they serve hardly any time at all they get home visits if they've 'behaved' after a few years! It's disgusting. The British government think more about the killers human rights than the victims or their families!!!They shouldn't be let out at all if you ask me. I think they should bring back the death sentence. With the advances in criminal law DNA etc a wrong full conviction is very unlikely. That way I'd know I'm never going to have to see him ever again. As it is he's out next year and I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with that :(

    Source(s): He didn't just kill my mum that day he killed a part of me too.
  • 1 decade ago

    A Life sentence does not always mean....forever you will die in prison.....it depends on exactly what type of life sentence the person got.......if it is with parole or the possibility of parole....then it is a chance that person could get out of prison after 20years. If it was life with no parole....then the person will never get out of prison.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    well because if everyone was jailed for life..which meant literally life..then the prisons would be choc a bloc all the time..there would be no space at all. and in the end what does life imprisonment do anyway....its not a good way of changing anything..just by hiding the bad people wont make them go away..

    anyway thats my 2 cents

    otherwise i agree that life shud be life or atealst 25 yrs

  • 1 decade ago

    i agree with you totally, life should mean life, but the prison are so full, they cant keep people in prison for any longer than they have too, which is a total joke, if you do the crime you should do all the time,stay safe,all the best

  • RMP
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    It would be great if thats how it worked but there is massive prison overcrowding, and each prisoner cost us £30 grand a year, so its not all good if life means life.

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.