The Forgotten Men: Serving a Life Without Parole Sentence.

Author:Dare, James
Position:Book review
 
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The Forgotten Men: Serving a Life Without Parole Sentence, by Margaret E. Leigey, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N.J., 2015, 256 pp.

The Forgotten Men by Margaret E. Leigey is a thought-provoking and challenging book that will generate debates, controversy and disagreements about the issue of imposing life without parole (LWOP), meaning a natural death sentence or death by incarceration. The author indicates that the purpose of the book is twofold: to provide research examining the experience of growing old in prison and to give voice to the long-serving permanently incarcerated. The final chapter goes beyond either purpose as the author provides her opinion on several policy recommendations directly aimed at information she collected from 25 inmates serving an LWOP sentence.

Throughout the book, Leigey makes a point that LWOP is not fair for all inmates. There are 49,000 federal and state inmates serving LWOP in the U.S.; however, the sample population of 25 men is a difficult attempt to persuade others to look at LWOP differently.

The book intrigued me, held my interest and took me through several emotions; however, most of the time, I disagreed with the author's findings. Many of the points seemed to be an exception to the rule, and the targeting of certain prison staff or services were opinions, not facts. In fairness, the author should take into consideration other points of view to provide a balanced approach regarding LWOP; victims, victims' families, law enforcement, prosecutors and others would add another dimension to the book.

Throughout the text, the number of statements that minimized the choices and behaviors of the men who murdered someone were disappointing, using excuses that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, felt threatened, were mentally off balance, committed a crime of passion, just "snapped," acted under stress, committed a burglary or robbery that went "awry" or their being not as bad as a serial killer. The author stated the only reason these men are still in prison is because of the horrible crimes they committed.

At the same time, I don't support the inhumane treatment of any individual, including individuals serving LWOP. Throughout the interviews, the inmates reported things they didn't like or situations they perceived as unfair; however, the commissioners, directors, wardens and prison staff have a job to do, and they don't specifically target men serving these...

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