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A gavel sits on a marble surface and casts a shadow
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Life sentences are one of the harshest sentences you can give someone, particularly if they are young. There have been too many kids and teenagers given 15 years-to-life or more, and who don’t make it home until after serving more than 50 years.

How does that even make sense? Even when they are working hard on themselves, they’re denied parole every time they come before the parole board.

It is a broken system. According to a 2016 American Civil Liberties Union study, the state of Ohio granted parole to just 104 out of 1,130 individuals considered in 2015. That’s 9.2% of those considered and 0.2% of the total prison population of 50,653. Many of them serve over double their minimum sentences.

I have been around guys in their 70s who have been serving 15-years-to-life sentences since their 20s. They are so old and fragile; when they fart, it startles them. And yet the corrections department still chooses to keep them locked up.

Their parents are dead, their friends are dead, and they are left with no one. How can you prepare someone for the streets if you don’t release them until they have nobody? How does that make sense?

Why do they give people a life sentence with a minimum sentence attached to it? Making them think they have a chance at getting out when they actually don’t is like teasing a dog with a wiener. It is barbaric because it is mental torture. Imagine how it might feel to be always walking on ice, every step you take showing up as a crack later on.

I’ve seen a man get denied parole for 10 years because of a write-up he received earlier in his incarceration for stealing a chicken patty from the chow hall. He was hungry.

Meting out life sentences with a minimum sentence makes prosecutors appear tough on crime — when all they are doing is cementing a steady paycheck by ruining the lives of children, especially children of color. It’s not fair.

We don’t need a parole board. We need help. The majority of people who receive life sentences shouldn’t have them.

The sentencing system in our country prioritizes business over actual rehabilitation. When they look at us, all they see are the Benjamins.

And they say we are the criminals.

(Additional reporting by PJP)

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Shaquille Davis is the author of the science-fiction novella “Neon Prime.” He is incarcerated in Ohio.