Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



This Note will discuss the relatively recent development and current prevalence of one alternative: the life sentence without benefit of parole, commonly called life-without-parole (LWOP). Life-without-parole is the penultimate penalty, meaning in theory the incarceration of convicts for their natural lives without the possibility of release on parole. In practice, LWOP generally means what it says, although various states do retain some release mechanisms for LWOP inmates, like executive commutation or a set term of years. The idea of jailing individuals for the rest of their lives is at least as old in the Western legal tradition as the Tower of London or the Bastille. In the United States, however,such a penalty historically has not been particularly popular. The constitutional system of government in the United States never has allowed persons to be summarily locked away. The American concept of prisons traditionally has been that they exist for rehabilitation and release as much as for incarceration.'