A new report by the ACLU finds that over 3,200 people in the U.S. are serving life sentences in prison without parole for nonviolent offenses.
The report highlights very pronounced racial disparities among that part of the incarcerated population.
Blacks were three times as likely than whites (65 percent vs. 18 percent) to serve life in prison without parole for nonviolent offenses, while Latinos were slightly less likely than whites (16 percent).
Harsh sentences in the Deep South
Overall, the states accounting for the most life sentences for nonviolent offences lie in the Deep South. States like Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, or South Carolina are notable outliers.
Costs, moral and financial
Notwithstanding the human cost and the pressing questions about the morality of such legal designs, the report notes that American taxpayers are paying $1.8 billion to keep these nonviolent offenders in prison.
According to the Guardian, the Obama administration wanted to find out the source of an “alleged Yemen terrorist plot story.”
Here is a report by Think Progress on the background of the DOJ’s action. According to them, the AP’s reporting on a foiled terrorist plot in Yemen “put AQAP [Al-Quida in the Arabic Peninsula] on notice that the CIA had a window into their activities.”
Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project said the following:
Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources.