One in Eight Inmates Serving Life or Lengthy Sentence

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Oklahoma has one in eight inmates who are serving a life sentence or a sentence of at least 50 years, a new report using 2016 data shows.

The report, released by advocacy groups OK CURE and The Sentencing Project, found that 2,908 people are serving life sentences and 682 are serving 50 years or more, comprising 12.4 percent of the inmate population. Those figures include life sentences that are eligible and ineligible for parole.

“Oklahoma’s leaders must wake up to the reality that we are wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars on a failed criminal justice policy that needs reforming,” Kevin Armstrong, president of OK CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, known as OK CURE) said in a written statement. “There are better ways to deal with crime than simply locking up people for the rest of their lives.”

Nationally, 13.9 percent of all state and federal prisoners are serving life sentences or terms of at least 50 years. That’s one out of every seven prisoners nationwide.

While Oklahoma is slightly below the national average, the state has experienced more growth in inmates serving life in prison. From 2003 to 2016, the number of inmates serving life without parole nearly doubled, growing by 93 percent. Nationwide, the increase was 59 percent.