Living in Prison with No Chance of Parole

What is it like to be sentenced to life in prison for a crime committed decades ago? View this moving documentary short.

When we look at a criminal, we usually look at the crime rather than the person. We forget that these people are human, with their own set of complicated feelings, circumstances, and, at times, regrets.

In the video below, numerous men who committed crimes in their youth are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole at Angola Prison in Louisiana. Now, decades later, they reflect back on their life in prison.

This Is What It’s Like to Spend Your Life in Prison:

Listening to the men in the short Opinion Video above is like encountering visitors from another planet. They are serving life sentences at Angola prison, in rural Louisiana, with little to no hope for release. Many are elderly; they have not seen the outside world, or their families, for decades.

They do not face execution, but they have been sentenced to death all the same, their lives spooling out endlessly on the cellblock and in the cotton fields, then ending in a prison hospice bed.

The men are among the thousands in Louisiana — and more than 50,000 nationwide — locked up for life without parole. It costs roughly $70,000 a year for each aging inmate, and this film asks whether the best way to spend billions of taxpayer dollars is on vengeance. The point is not to diminish the severity of the crimes that put these men behind bars. As many of them acknowledge, they have been rightly punished for a long time. But, ask yourself as you watch the video, how long is long enough?

That’s a question more and more states are asking. In recent years, a number of states, including Maryland, South Carolina, and New Mexico, have debated changing their laws to give those serving lengthy sentences a chance at freedom. Several states have already enacted so-called second-look laws, which permit reconsideration of sentences for inmates who have reached a certain age or been incarcerated for a minimum term or whose sentences no longer serve a valid legislative purpose. At the federal level, the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission in January issued draft guidelines that would give judges more flexibility to consider releasing elderly inmates.

None of us want to be defined solely by the person we were in our youth or by the worst thing we ever did. The men serving life without parole feel the same way.