Amid growing public support for criminal justice reform, policymakers and criminal justice practitioners have begun to scale back prison sentences for low-level, nonviolent crimes. Although the results have been modest—a 5% reduction in the overall U.S. prison population between 2009 and 2015—this shift follows almost four decades of prison expansion. But so far, criminal justice reform has largely excluded people in prison with life sentences. This growing “lifer” population both illustrates and contributes to the persistence of mass incarceration.
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