New York Times
October 2, 2005
Permanent incarceration may be the fitting punishment for murder. Few shed tears for Gary L. Ridgway, the Green River killer, who was sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms in Washington State, one for each of the women he admitted to killing.
But some critics of life sentences say they are overused, pointing to people like Jerald Sanders, who is serving a life sentence in Alabama. He was a small-time burglar and had never been convicted of a violent crime. Under the state's habitual offender law, he was sent away after stealing a $60 bicycle.
Fewer than two-thirds of the 70,000 people sentenced to life from 1988 to 2001 are in for murder, the Times analysis found. Other lifers - more than 25,000 of them - were convicted of crimes like rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, extortion, burglary and arson. People convicted of drug trafficking account for 16 percent of all lifers.
Note: I think Jerald Sanders was released from prison due the efforts of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama. (eji.org)