A new study just came out stating that more and more people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. In 1984 there were 34,000 people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Today that number has more than quadrupled to over 140,000 people out of the total 2.3 million people incarcerated in this country. Two thirds of the people service life sentences are either Latino or Black.
There are five other states besides Iowa along with the federal prison system that do not allow people serving life sentences the possibility of any type of parole or early release. The other five states are Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. Most of these states are facing financial problems due to that lack of revenue coming in because of the current economic recession, and the ever growing prison population is straining state budgets.
The majority of Iowa inmates that are serving life sentences committed violent crimes resulting in someone’s death, but there are others who are serving life sentences because of the felony murder rule that did not commit a violent crime or at least were not the ones how actually murdered someone. It’s obvious that a number of states including Iowa are going to be unable to house the growing prison population over the coming years and will have to start looking for ways to decrease the number of people serving life sentences. Some states and a number of countries have already banned the use of the felony murder rule because of the fact that it is an unconstitutional law that has been unjustly used by prosecutors to imprison non violent criminals for life. It not only makes sense to stop using this law because it is the right thing but because it will help decrease the number of Iowa inmates doing life sentences and decrease the overall population.