Skip to main content

Task Force on Long-Term Prisoners

WHEREAS, the United States incarcerates a greater proportion of its citizenry than any other nation, imprisoning one quarter (25%) of the world's inmates, while composing only one-twentieth (5%) of the planet's population; and

WHEREAS, there are over 200,000 long-term prisoners in the United States, including 132,000 serving life sentences; and

WHEREAS, the numbers of prisoners serving life sentences have increased eighty-three (83%) percent in the last ten years alone; and

WHEREAS, in 1992, there were only one-in-six lifers serving no-parole sentences, today there are one-in-four serving natural life sentences; and

WHEREAS, research demonstrates that the explosive penal population increases have not been the result of violent crime, which has markedly decreased, but rather the result of longer mandatory sentences, and more restrictive parole and commutation policies; and

WHEREAS, the recidivism rate for those having served long-term sentences is the lowest of any term serving cohort of prisoners (20% compared to 67%); and

WHEREAS, it costs upwards of one million ($1,000,000) dollars to incarcerate a person sentenced to life in prison for 40 years; and

WHEREAS, unprecedented in world history, the United States has now incarcerated the largest population of prisoners who will die of old age behind bars; and

WHEREAS, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M, Kennedy stated, "Our resources are misspent, our punishments are too severe, our sentences too long."

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that NAACP Units urge their state and local governments to create "Task Forces on Long-Term Prisoners" to recommend state strategies involving the prison and parole agencies and other partners as appropriate; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the task forces' recommendations ensure the achievement of the highest reasonable level of public safety; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the task forces consider the negative long term opportunity costs to the states resulting from their present zealous incarceration policies, such as the shift of public higher education from being "state-supported" to "state classified" systems because of the reallocation of public funds to expand and operate their penal systems necessitating excessively burdensome tuition increases; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that among other options, the task forces examine successful and socially economically efficient long-term release programs, such as LifeLine in Canada; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the task forces be appointed by Governors and the legislatures and complete their work within 18 months of their formation.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that branch prison support committees, and where applicable, state conference prison project committees, monitor and report annually on the progress of the Task Force on Long Term Prisoners in its year­ end unit activity report.