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date: 19 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the penological landscape of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (or life without parole, LWOP) in the twenty-first century. It begins with an overview of the meaning and extent of LWOP sentences across contemporary penal systems worldwide, focusing on the significant increase of LWOP sentences in the United States. It then considers some of the key arguments that have been put forward to justify lifelong imprisonment and goes on to review international law and treaty provisions that have placed important restrictions on the use of LWOP around the world. It also examines the extent to which LWOP sentences are compatible with international human rights standards on the treatment of prisoners. The article argues that the imposition and implementation of whole-life sentences violate fundamental human rights. It concludes by outlining potentially important areas for future research.

Keywords: life without parole, LWOP, penal systems, United States, international law, human rights, prisoners, whole-life sentences

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