As the nation moves away from the policies that built a criminal justice system bent on mass incarceration, it is an appropriate time to reassess a sentencing regime that has doomed thousands of individuals convicted of nonviolent offenses to die in prison. Over the last thirty years, those policies have resulted in more than 3,000 offenders across the country receiving life sentences without the possibility of parole when they were convicted of a nonviolent crime. While it seems clear to many today that this harsh punishment is inappropriate for offenses that involved no physical harm to other people, the individuals serving these sentences continue to face life and death in prison. The Eighth Amendment offers these offenders an opportunity to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of their punishment to the Supreme Court—the institution in the best position to redress these excessive sentences of a bygone era.
Bidish J. Sarma and Sophie Cull,
The Emerging Eighth Amendment Consensus Against Life Without Parole Sentences for Nonviolent Offenses, 66 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 525 (2015)
Available at: http://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/caselrev/vol66/iss2/7