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Doing “Life”: A Glimpse into the Long-Term Incarceration Experience

Inmate #0596308, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Salisbury, NC 28147, USA
Department of Government and Justice Studies, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Laws 2015, 4(3), 559-578;
Submission received: 20 May 2015 / Revised: 13 August 2015 / Accepted: 13 August 2015 / Published: 26 August 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)


“Life means life” is a mantra of elected state officials who would rather spend already-compromised state budgets on increasing the use of imprisonment as a punishing tool rather than being viewed by their constituents as “soft on crime”. As a result of tough-on-crime initiatives, approximately 160,000 out of 2.2 million inmates being held in jails and prisons in the United States are serving life sentences. While surviving imprisonment is a challenge for most individuals, prisoners who serve long sentences—including “life”—have different adaptation mechanisms, and for them, adaptation is a longer, more complex process. Further, while persons serving life sentences include those who present a serious threat to public safety, they also include those for whom the length of sentence is questionable. In particular, life without parole (LWOP) sentences often represent a misuse of limited correctional resources and discount the capacity for personal growth and rehabilitation that comes with the passage of time. The purpose of this article is to explore the “doing life” experiences of a man who has chosen to redirect the focus of his life by transforming himself and helping others.
Keywords: life sentences; juvenile life without parole; doing prison time life sentences; juvenile life without parole; doing prison time

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MDPI and ACS Style

Willis, A.K.; Zaitzow, B.H. Doing “Life”: A Glimpse into the Long-Term Incarceration Experience. Laws 2015, 4, 559-578.

AMA Style

Willis AK, Zaitzow BH. Doing “Life”: A Glimpse into the Long-Term Incarceration Experience. Laws. 2015; 4(3):559-578.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Willis, Anthony K., and Barbara H. Zaitzow. 2015. "Doing “Life”: A Glimpse into the Long-Term Incarceration Experience" Laws 4, no. 3: 559-578.

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