Prison Commentary: Life Sentences Without Parole - Week 5

Prison Commentary: Life Sentences Without Parole - Week 5

Course: HNRS 302: Extreme Punishments: Life, Death, & Solitary Confinement
Written: February 12, 2014 

Published: February 23, 2017
© All Rights Reserved

Written during Destiny's junior year of college, Destiny poignantly provides commentary and reflection on readings for the week for a University Honors course titled "Extreme Punishments." Each reading required the illumination of the following 4 structure components: takeway(s), a free write, a quotation(s) of interest, and a question(s). 

Life Sentences Without Parole

Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough and Life Without Parole, America's Other Death Penalty


  • Life without parole (LWOP) is another form of death row
  • LWOP in many cases has few if any legal rights to eliminate suffering because parole is not an option
  • LWOP is overly used for sentencing, causing it be an ineffective form of punishment for non capital murder offenses
  • LWOP should be applicable to capital murder

Free write

Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough

The book presents ethos, logos and pathos.  The format was strategic and effective because it takes the reader on eclectic-intellectual & emotional journey.  Although the content is significant, the format/structure brought life to the piece.  It removed reader-subjectivity by presenting the literary works first--implying that the reflective essays & poetry were of first priority.  Presenting the bios after the literary content added credibility, suspense and a human perspective.  The Biographies and “Now What” sections presented a personal and governmental call to action.  This was clever because many people are too consumed with their mundane life and are unaware of the devastating implications of LWOP--let alone how they can help improve our justice (sentencing) guidelines.

Life Without Parole, America’s Other Death Penalty

Johnson and McGunigall-Smith clearly state their thesis that LWOP is by definition and experience the death penalty.  An accurate and precise window is provided into the complexities of LWOP, which entices the reader to evaluate the breadth of LWOP.  In addition, the thesis was solidly illustrated.  Contrary to public opinion, lifers do not pose a special threat to others in prison. It was refreshing to see this supported with data. Exploring and exposing prison conditions coupled with the psychological impact of “dying in prison" rather than by execution, demonstrates that the authors have done an in-depth research into our dysfunctional justice system.  This is notable because there is a widespread sentiment that inmates are like monsters.  In my opinion, this is due to a superficial or surface level of human rights and morality.


Reading both of these literary works together really brings awareness and allows the audience to assess our justice system from the inside out. They both present the issue of LWOP in different forms, but the theme and message is profound.  I appreciate the use of anecdotes and thorough research because they both uncover and amplify the most serious problems with LWOP.  As a daughter of a father serving LWOP, I can attest to the authenticity of the works displayed from the article and book.  Simply, nothing is missing when the article and book are read in the same time frame.


Too Cruel

  • No matter what we do, and how we grow, it doesn’t make a difference. We’re still held captive behind the unforgiving fence. (pg.128)

Life Without Parole, America’s Other Death Penalty

  • There has to something better than this ( Parson pg. 333)


  • To what extent are governmental agencies working to minimize LWOP?
  • Why does poverty equate to unjust treatment in such a resourceful society?
  • Are inmates with email accounts federal or state inmates?


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