The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences

Regular price $ 25.99

by Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis, With contribution from Kerry Myers

The New Press


SKU: 9781620974094


From the author of the classic Race to Incarcerate, a forceful and necessary argument for eliminating life sentences, including profiles of six people directly impacted by life sentences by formerly incarcerated author Kerry Myers.

Most Western democracies have few or no people serving life sentences, yet here in the United States more than 200,000 people are sentenced to such prison terms.

Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project argue that there is no practical or moral justification for a sentence longer than twenty years. Harsher sentences have been shown to have little effect on crime rates, since people age out of crime--meaning that we're spending a fortune on geriatric care for older prisoners who pose little threat to public safety. Extreme punishment for serious crime also has an inflationary effect on sentences across the spectrum, helping to account for severe mandatory minimums and other harsh punishments.

A thoughtful and stirring call to action, The Meaning of Life also features moving profiles of a half dozen people affected by life sentences, written by former lifer and award-winning writer Kerry Myers. The book will tie in to a campaign spearheaded by The Sentencing Project and offers a much-needed road map to a more humane criminal justice system.


"An argument as persuasive as it is humane." -- Ibram X. Kendi, author of many books, including: Stamped from the Beginning, How to Be an Antiracist, and Goodnight Racism.

"I can think of no authors more qualified to research the complex impact of life sentences than Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis. They have the expertise to track down the information that all citizens need to know and the skills to translate that research into accessible and powerful prose." -- Heather Ann Thompson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

"Race to Incarcerate explains why prisoners have become commodities and why present policies are draining black communities of their young men." -- Julian Bond, Chair of the NAACP Board of Directors and author of Julian Bond's Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement.

About the Author:

Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project, a national organization based in Washington, DC, that promotes criminal justice reform. He is the author of Race to Incarcerate, contributor to Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment, and the co-editor (with Meda Chesney-Lind) of Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Ashley Nellis is a senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project who has written extensively on the prevalence of life sentences in the United States. She lives in Falls Church, Virginia.