Virtual Life Sentences: An Exploratory Study

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5 Scopus citations


Virtual life sentences are sentences with a term of years that exceed an individual’s natural life expectancy. This exploratory study is one of the first to collect data that establish the existence, prevalence, and scope of virtual life sentences in state prisons in the United States. Initial data reveal that more than 31,000 people in 26 states are serving virtual life sentences for violent and nonviolent offenses, and suggest racial disparities in the distribution of these sentences. This study also presents potential policy implications and suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-313
Number of pages20
JournalPrison Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • death penalty
  • death-in-prison sentences
  • life sentences
  • life without parole
  • punishment


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