Prisoner Sentencing

How long a sentence should a murder get in prison?

In the UK life sentences rarely actually mean life, whilst in the USA this is fairly common. Currently in the UK only about 50 people are subject to a whole-life sentence, most recently Dale Cregan for murdering 4 people. In the USA, however, approximately 40,000 people are imprisoned without much hope of release. Furthermore, this figure does not include those American prisoners who have been given extremely long fixed term sentences. For example, one Alabama man was sentenced to 200 years for kidnapping and armed robbery.

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America’s ‘sentencing inflation’ began in the 1980s when the Democrats and the Republicans wanted to show how tough they could be on crime. The increased sentences also saw a rise in states like Michigan where the death penalty does not exist, so the increased sentence was an alternative punishment.

However, there have been recent calls to have US-style, lengthy fixed life sentences in the UK. This is being considered after the European court ruled in 2013 that whole-life sentences were breaching the European Court of Human Rights. These proposals would allow the court to give sentences of hundreds of years. But, unlike whole-life sentences, these sentences can be reviewed and reduced (an aspect of sentencing less available in America).

Although many people say this move will “restore Human Rights” by enabling sentences to be reviewed along the way many others still argue that the sentence changes is dangerous and unnecessary, especially as the UK has seen increased sentences being given out year on year for the past decade.

How should a murderer be sentenced? How does it differ in your country? What sentencing proposals do you want to see?

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