Life imprisonment

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Life imprisonment (also known as a life sentence, lifelong incarceration or life incarceration) is any sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in prison for the rest of his or her life or until paroled. Crimes for which a person could receive this sentence include murder, attempted murder, severe child abuse, rape, espionage, high treason, drug dealing, vandalism, human trafficking, severe cases of fraud, aggravated criminal damage in English law, aggravated cases of burglary or robbery resulting in death or grievous bodily harm.

Life imprisonment can, in certain cases, also be imposed for transportation offences causing death, as a maximum term. Some American states and Canada allow judges to impose life imprisonment for such offences.

This sentence does not exist in all countries. Portugal was the first country in the world to abolish life imprisonment by the prison reforms of Sampaio e Melo in 1884. However, where life imprisonment is a possible sentence, there may also be formal mechanisms to request parole after a certain period of imprisonment. This means that a convict could be entitled to spend the rest of the sentence (until he or she dies) outside prison. Early release is usually conditional depending on past and future conduct, possibly with certain restrictions or obligations. In contrast, when a fixed term of imprisonment has ended, the convict is free.

The length of time and the modalities surrounding parole vary greatly for each jurisdiction. In some places, convicts are entitled to apply for parole relatively early, in others, only after several decades. However, the time until being entitled to apply for parole does not necessarily tell anything about the actual date of parole being granted. Article 110 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stipulates that for the gravest forms of crimes (such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide), a prisoner ought to serve two-thirds of a fixed sentence, or 25 years in the case of a life sentence. The highest determined prison sentence that can be imposed in the ICC, aside from life imprisonment, is 30 years (article 77 1) a)). After this period, the court will review the sentence to determine whether or not it should be reduced.

The US has the world's largest population behind bars and leads in life sentences as well, at a rate of 50 people per 100,000 residents imprisoned for life.[1] Some technically finite sentences are handed out, especially in the United States that exceed a century and thus are seen as being symbolic life sentences, since without indefinite life extension nobody would ever be able to live long enough to serve those sentences. Courts in South Africa have handed out at least two sentences that have exceeded a century (to Moses Sithole and Eugene de Kock) and were thus symbolic life sentences.

Unlike other areas of criminal law, sentences handed to minors do not differ from those given to legal adults. A few countries worldwide allow for minors to be given lifetime sentences that have no provision for eventual release. Countries that allow life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juveniles include Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brunei, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Of these, only the United States currently has minors serving such sentences.[2] As of 2009, Human Rights Watch had calculated that there were 2,589[3][4] youth offenders serving life without parole in the United States.[5]

United States[edit]

In 2011 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sentencing minors to life without parole, automatically (as the result of a statute) or as the result of a judicial decision, for crimes other than intentional homicide, violated the 8th Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment, in the case of Graham v. Florida.[6]

Mugshot of Burton Phillips, convicted for life imprisonment for bank robbery, 1935

Graham v. Florida was a significant case in juvenile justice. In Jacksonville, Florida, Terrence J. Graham tried to rob a restaurant along with three adolescent accomplices. During the robbery one of Graham's accomplices had a metal bar that he used to hit the restaurant manager twice in the head. Once arrested, Graham was charged with attempted armed robbery and armed burglary with assault/battery. The maximum sentence he faced from these charges was life without the possibility of parole, and the prosecutor wanted to charge him as an adult. During the trial, Graham pled guilty to the charges, resulting in three years of probation, one year of which had to be served in jail. Since he had been awaiting trial in jail, he already served six months and therefore was released after six additional months.[7]

Within six months of his release, Graham was involved in another robbery. Since he violated the conditions of his probation, his probation officer reported to the trial court about his probation violations a few weeks before Graham turned 18 years old. It was a different judge presiding over his trial for the probation violations a year later. While Graham denied any involvement of the robbery, he did admit to fleeing from the police. The trial court found that Graham violated his probation by "committing a home invasion robbery, possessing a firearm, and associating with persons engaged in criminal activity",[7] and sentenced him to 15 years for the attempted armed robbery plus life imprisonment for the armed burglary. The life sentence Graham received meant he had a life sentence without the possibility of parole, "because Florida abolished their parole system in 2003".[7]

Graham's case was presented to the United States Supreme Court, with the question of whether juveniles should receive life without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases. The Justices eventually ruled that such a sentence violated the juvenile's 8th amendment rights, protecting them from punishments that are disproportionate to the crime committed,[7] resulting in the abolition of life sentences without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases for juveniles.

The Supreme Court considered, in the spring of 2012, the question of whether or not minors should be sentenced, at least automatically, to life without parole for any crime at all, including the only cases in which such a punishment was at that time an option: first-degree murder with aggravating factors (felony murder, where life without parole was then given as an option to juveniles, and where an adult in the same context could be charged with capital murder and given life or the death penalty).[8] On 25 June 2012, according to the Catholic News Service (CNS) news brief posted that day,[9] the Court ruled on the case of Miller v. Alabama in a 5–4 decision and with the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Elena Kagan that life in prison without parole as an automatic sentence would be considered unconstitutional in all cases in the United States. The majority opinion stated that the judge should take into account mitigating factors and other information that are usually of relevance during the sentencing phase. Such factors would include, but are not limited to: information on the nature of the crime and the victim(s), age, record, potential for rehabilitation and contribution to society, wishes of the prosecution, defense, and the victim's family, maturity level, degree of malice and forethought and degree of participation, aggravating circumstances or accompanying crimes, family environment and related circumstances such as a history of mistreatment, literacy and educational level, psychosocial and neurological development, and many others. Their reasoning was that such a sentence violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision was announced on the penultimate day of the 2011–12 Supreme Court term. For now, a sentence of life in prison without parole could still be handed down for aggravated first-degree murder if it was determined, after those relevant considerations, to be warranted.

World view[edit]

Life imprisonment laws around the world:
  Life imprisonment sentence is used
  Life imprisonment may be imposed only on men
  Life imprisonment laws have been abolished
  Life imprisonment status unknown, presumed legal

Reform or abolition[edit]

In a number of countries, life imprisonment has been effectively abolished. Many of the countries whose governments have abolished both life imprisonment and indefinite imprisonment have been culturally influenced or colonized by Spain or Portugal, and have written such prohibitions into their current constitutional laws.

A number of European countries have abolished all forms of indefinite imprisonment, including Serbia, Croatia, and Spain, which set the maximum sentence at 40 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which sets the maximum sentence at 45 years, and also Portugal, which sets the maximum sentence at 30 years, while Norway has abolished life imprisonment but retains other forms of indefinite imprisonment.

The only country in Asia to have abolished all forms of indefinite imprisonment is the Chinese dependency (Special Administrative Region) and former Portuguese colony of Macau, which maintains a maximum sentence of 30 years, having inherited the law from the Portuguese colonial administration. Three African countries, the Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Cape Verde have abolished life imprisonment; the maximum sentence is 30 years in Mozambique and Republic of the Congo, and 25 years in Cape Verde.

In South and Central America, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic have all abolished life imprisonment. The maximum sentence is 75 years in El Salvador, 60 years in Colombia, 50 years in Costa Rica and Panama, 40 years in Honduras, 35 years in Ecuador, 30 years in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela, and 25 years in Paraguay. Brazil has a maximum sentence of 30 years under statutory law, but capital punishment and life imprisonment during wartime (for military crimes such as treason, desertion, and mutiny) are allowed in the Constitution.

In the United States, a 2009 report by the Sentencing Project suggested that life imprisonment without parole should be abolished, a suggestion that was met with opposition from law enforcement officials.[10]

Overview by jurisdiction[edit]

Summary by country[edit]

Jurisdiction (link to details)Life imprisonmentMinimum to serve before eligibility for requesting paroleMaximum length of sentence (under life)Indefinite sentence (excl. preventive or psychiatric detainment)Mandatory sentencePossible other sentenceUnder age of 18 (or 21)Pardon, amnesty, other releaseDeath penalty
 AfghanistanYesNeverNoneYesMurder, terrorism, violation of Islamic lawTreason, drug traffickingYes[citation needed]By President
Albania AlbaniaYes, only for men above age 1825 yearsMaximum 30 years for all women ??Murder with aggravating factorTerrorism, war crimesunder 18: max. 20 years' imprisonmentOnly in extraordinary circumstances may the convicted serving life imprisonment be released on parole
 ArgentinaYes20 years or neverNoneYesMurder with aggravating circumstances; murder of a relative; murder of and/or by a police officer; treasonSerial rape; Gender homicide ??By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)
 ArmeniaYes, but only for men20 yearsMaximum 30 years for all womenNoMurder, terrorismCollaborating with Azerbaijani armed forces, treason ??By President
Austria Austria[11]Yes15 years (Imprisonment for a definite period)
or never (Imprisonment for lifetime, when clemency is rejected by President)
NoneYesGenocideMurder, high level drug dealing, Nazi activism, production or distribution of chemical warfare agents to be used in armed conflict; abduction, robbery, rape and statutory rape if the crime causes the victim's death, sea and air piracy and arson if the crime causes the death of a large number of peopleunder 16: max. 10 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 15 years' imprisonment
18–20: max. 20 years' imprisonment
Pardon by president
Australia AustraliaYes10 years, 20 years, 25 years, or never; individually set by judgeNoneYesMurder of police officer or other public official, murder in South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, aircraft hijackingTreason, terrorism, drug trafficking, rape, serious child sex offencesunder 18: must have minimum term setCompassionate release by Governor of state/Administrator of territory, or Governor-General
 AzerbaijanYes20 yearsNoneNoMurder, terrorismDrug traffickingYesBy President
 BelarusYes but only for men aged between the age of 18 and 65 (same as Russia)25 yearsNone ?? ?? ??Maximum 15 yearsBy CourtsYes (with the exception of women as well as men under the age of 18 and over the age of 65).
Belgium BelgiumYes15 years (no previous conviction or below 3 years), 19 years (previous conviction below 5 years), or 23 years (previous conviction 5 years or more)[12]NoneNoNoneMurderunder 12: never prosecution
12–15: max. detained till the age of 20
16–17: max. 30 years' imprisonment[13]
Parole by Conditional Release Commission or pardon by King
 BelizeYesNever ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
 BoliviaNoVaries, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 Bosnia and HerzegovinaNoVaries, depending on sentence45 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 BrazilNo (except in wartime)[14]Varies, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentenceNoNo life imprisonment sentence
 Bulgaria[15]Yes20 years or neverNoneYesNoneAggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, treason, espionage, war crimes, genocide, desertion in wartimeMaximum 12 yearsBy President
 CambodiaYesNeverNoneNoMurder, genocide, crimes against huamanity, terrorismDrug traffickingYesBy King
Canada CanadaYes7 years minimum to infinite[16][17]NoneYesHigh treason, murder, war crimes, and crimes against humanityVarious crimes including armed robbery, extortion, and most offenses resulting in deathunder 12: Never prosecuted

12–13: Max 10 years for first degree murder, 7 years for second degree murder

14–17: Yes, but only when tried as adult, with lower parole eligibility date.

Abolished in 1976.
 Cape VerdeNoVaries, depending on sentence25 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 ColombiaNoVaries, depending on sentence60 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 Costa RicaNoVaries, depending on sentence50 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 ChileYes20 years, 40 years for violent crimesNoneYesNoneTreason, kidnapping with homicide or rape, rape with homicide, parricide, robbery with homicide or rape14–15: max. 5 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 10 years' imprisonment
By President
China People's Republic of ChinaYes10 years for non-violent crimes; never for murder, rape, kidnap, arson, explosives offences, putting hazardous materials or other organized violent crimesNoneNoNoVariousYesBy courtsYes
Croatia CroatiaNo[18]Varies, depending on sentence40 years[18]NoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence
 CubaYesNever; only under pardon by presidentNoneNoMurder, Drug trafficking ??Yes[citation needed]By PresidentYes
 Cyprus ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
 Czech Republic[19]Yes20 years general
30 or more years if part of sentence[20]
NoneNoNoneSome cases of murder, public endangerment, treason, terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, use of forbidden combat device or forbidden combat tactics, war crimes, persecution of population, misuse of international symbols15–18: max. 10 years' imprisonmentBy President
Denmark DenmarkYes12 years, or never[citation needed]None[21]Yes ?? ??Maximum 16 yearsAfter 12 years entitled to request to Minister of Justice; granted by King or Queen of Denmark
 Dominican RepublicNoVaries, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence13–15: max. 5 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 8 years' imprisonment
No life imprisonment sentence
 EcuadorNoVaries, depending on sentence35 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 El SalvadorNo (Except in wartime)Varies, depending on sentence75 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 EgyptYesNeverNoneNoMurder, rape, kidnapping, terrorismDrug offensesYesPardon by president
 EstoniaYes30 yearsNoneYes (de facto)NoneSome cases of murder, some cases of handling drugs, crimes against humanity, genocide, acts of war against civilians, terrorism, violence against the independence of Estonia, causing an explosion using nuclear energy.[22]Maximum length 10 yearsPardon by president[23]
Finland FinlandYes12 years for court release, any time for presidential pardon[24]NoneYesMurderGenocide, high treason, espionage, war crimes, homicidal terrorist actunder 18: max. 15 years' imprisonment
under 21: minimum 10 years for parole request
By president, Helsinki Court of Appeal
France FranceYes18–22 years (30 years or never for very rare cases)NoneYes, but only if decided by court at sentencingNoneAggravated murder, aggravated torture, aggravated treason, drug kinping, crimes against humanity, war crimesunder 16: max. 20 years' imprisonmentBy president, with countersignature from Prime minister and ministry of justice
Germany GermanyYes15 years[25]NoneNoAggravated murder,[26] genocide resulting in death,[27] crimes against humanity resulting in death,[28] war crimes against persons resulting in death[29]See details10 yearsBy Federal President or Minister-President
 GeorgiaYes25 yearsNoneNoMurderTerrorism, treason ??Pardon by president
Greece GreeceYes16 years, or 20 years in cases of multiple life sentencesNoneYesMurder, terrorism ??Maximum 20 yearsBy President
 HungaryYes20–40 years or neverNoneYesMurder, after 3 violent crimesGenocide, high treasonunder 18: max. 15 years' imprisonmentBy president
 HondurasNoVaries, depending on sentence40 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 Hong Kong, ChinaYesIndividually set by judgeNoneYesMurder, Genocide involving killingManslaughter, drug trafficking, treason, incitement to mutiny, piratical acts,Must have minimum term setBy Chief Executive of Hong Kong, under the recommendation of Long Term Prison Sentences Review Board
 IcelandYesNever; only pardon by presidentNoneYesNoneTreason, murder, kidnapping and grand and/or repeated theft.Maximum 10 yearsBy President
 IndiaYes25 years or neverNoneYesMurder, rape, robberyKidnapping,YesMay be pardoned or reprieved by exercise of prerogative clemency powers of the President or the GovernorYes
 IndonesiaYesNeverNoneYesMurder, terrorism, kidnapping, rape, treason ?? ??By PresidentYes
 IraqYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorismDrug traffickingYesBy President
Republic of Ireland IrelandYes12–30 years or never; individually set by judgeNoneYes[citation needed]Murder, treason, some serious injuries, etc. see detailsSee details ??By President
Israel IsraelYesNever; only under pardon by presidentNoneYes[citation needed]Murder, terrorismKidnapping child with intent to murderYesBy president usually after 30 years
Italy ItalyYes21 years, 26 years, or neverNoneYesMurder, terrorism, mafia association, drug trafficking, human trafficking, treasonAggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, firearm traffickingunder 16: max. 20 years' imprisonmentBy president
 JamaicaYes10–30 years or never; individually set by judgeNoneYes ?? ?? ?? ??
Japan JapanYes10 years or neverNoneYesVaries by prefecture (Murder)Death sentence due to foreign aggressionYesBy EmperorYes
 JordanYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorism, espionageDrug traffickingYesBy King
 KazakhstanYes25 years or neverNoneYesMurder, terrorism ??Maximum 20 yearsBy President
 KiribatiYes25 years or neverNone ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
 KyrgyzstanYesNeverNoneYesMurder, terrorism ?? ??By President
 KosovoNoVaries, depending on sentence40 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
Laos Lao People's Democratic RepublicYesNeverNoneYes ?? ?? ?? ??
 LatviaYes25 yearsNoneYesMurder, treason, terrorism, war crimesDrug offenses, rape, robbery, sabotage, crimes against humanity ??By President
 LebanonYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorism, treasonDrug trafficking and manufacturingYesBy PresidentYes[30][31]
 LithuaniaYesNever; only pardon by presidentNoneYesMurder, terrorism ?? ??By President
 LiechtensteinYes15 yearsNoneNoNoneMurder, terrorism ??Pardon by prince
 LuxembourgYes15 yearsNoneYesMurder, treasonTerrorism ??By Grand Duke
 Macau, ChinaNoVaries, depending on sentence25 years (30 in exceptional circumstances)[32]NoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
Republic of Macedonia Republic of MacedoniaYes15 yearsNoneYesMurder, terrorismRape, robbery, drug offenses crimes against humanityYesBy President
 MalaysiaYes20 years or neverNoneYesMurder, drug offenses, serious firearms/ammunition/explosive offenses, terrorism, rape, attack on monarch, violence to parliament, treason ?? ??By Yang di-Pertuan Agong / Federal Pardon Committee
 MaltaYesNever; only pardon by PresidentNoneYesMurder, terrorism ?? ??By President
Mexico MexicoNo (exception of Chihuahua)Varies, depending on sentence60 years (70 years if convicted of murder involving kidnapping)No[33]No life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
Moldova Republic of MoldovaYes35 yearsNoneYesMurder, terrorism ?? ??By President
 MonacoYes15 yearsNoneYesMurder, terrorism, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity ?? ??By President
 MoroccoYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorism, treasonDrug trafficking and manufacturingYesBy King / Queen
Netherlands The NetherlandsYesNeverNoneYes (de facto)NoneAttack on monarch, violence to parliament, several facts constituting an offence resulting in death of (a) person(s) (not manslaughter), manslaughter in combination with other facts, facts with intent to terrorism, treasonunder 12: never prosecution
12–15: max. 12 months imprisonment
16–17: max. 24 months imprisonment
By monarch (almost never granted)
   NepalYes20 yearsNoneNoMurder, terrorism ?? ??By president
New Zealand New ZealandYes10 years, 17 years, 20 years, 30 years or never; individually set by judgeNoneYesTreasonMurder (mandatory unless manifestly unjust)
manslaughter, certain drug related
under 18: must have minimum term setSentence may be reduced or pardon granted by the Governor General (Rarely done)
 NicaraguaNoVaries, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 NigeriaYesNever[34]NoneYes ?? ??No life imprisonment sentence ??
 Democratic People's Republic of KoreaYesNeverNoneYes (de facto and de jure)Murder, espionage, treason ??YesBy president
Norway NorwayNoVaries, depending on sentence21 years (can be extended indefinitely if the criminal poses a danger to society at the end of served time); 30 years for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanityYesNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence, people over age of 15 can be sentenced by normal laws or to child protectionNo life imprisonment sentence
 PakistanYes25 yearsNone ?? ?? ?? ??By PresidentYes
 PanamaNoVaries, depending on sentence50 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 ParaguayNoVaries, depending on sentence25 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 PeruYes35 years or neverNoneYesMurder with aggravated circumstances, terrorism, treasonSerious kidnapping, violent rape attempted murder ??By President
Poland PolandYes25 years or more—individually set by judgeNoneNoNoneGenocide, war crimes, high treason, murder, assassination attempt of Polish presidentunder 18: max. 25 years' imprisonmentPardon by president, Amnesty by act of parliament (last amnesty in 1989)
 PortugalNoVaries, depending on sentence25 years (30 years in special circumstances)NoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 RomaniaYes20 yearsNoneNo; replaced by 25 years' imprisonment at age 60[35]Genocide during wartime, inhumane treatment during wartimeTreason and other grave crimes against the state, extremely grave murder, capitulation, desertion on the battlefield, crimes against peace or humanity[36]Under 18: max. 20 years' imprisonment[37]Pardon by President, amnesty by act of Parliament
 Republic of the CongoNoVaries, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
Russia Russian FederationYes, but only for men between 18 and 65 years.25 years or 30 years (25 years for murder and 30 years for murder with exceptional circumstances unless mutiple murders are committed for life imprisonment to be applied)25 years' imprisonment or 30 years in special circumstances for all women and men between the age of 18 and 65 unless multiple murders are committed for life imprisonment to be appliedNoNoSee detailsunder 18: max. 10 years' imprisonmentBy President
 Saudi ArabiaYesNeverNoneNoApostasy, Drug trafficking, Willful killing,Homosexuality, witchcraftYesBy KingYes
 SerbiaNoVaries, depending on sentence40 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 SingaporeYes20 yearsNoneYesKidnapping for ransomDrug trafficking, gun crimePrisoner detained at the President's discretion ??
Slovakia SlovakiaYes25 yearsNoneYesMurder, terrorism, treasonCrimes against humanity, war crimesunder 14: no imprisonment
14–17: max. 15 years' imprisonment[38]
By President
 SloveniaYes15 yearsNoneYesMurder, treasonTerrorism, drug offenses, crimes against humanity ??By President
South Africa South AfricaYes10, 15, or 25 yearsNoneNo[citation needed]Certain murder, rape and robbery ?? ?? ??
 Republic of KoreaYes10 years or neverNoneNoHigh treason, robbery (rape) with deadly outcomes, arson, murder of relative, etc.Counterfeiting or falsification of currencyMaximum 10 years (for certain violent crimes 20 years)By President and requires agreement of National Assembly
Spain SpainNoVaries, depending on sentence40 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
Syria Syrian Arab RepublicYesNeverNoneNoMurder, political crimes, terrorism, treasonDrug offensesYesBy PresidentYes
Sweden SwedenYes18 years or never, but parole hearing may be held after 10 years served, thus fixing a much later date for release on paroleNoneYesNoneMurder, kidnapping, arson, sabotage, devastation, hijacking, espionage, terror crimes, rebellion, endangering the public health by spread of contagion or poison, disloyalty when negotiating with foreign powers, dealing with anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs or chemical or nuclear weapons, unlawful nuclear explosion, treason, genocide and (the following in wartime only) mutiny, insubordination, undermining the will to fight, desertation, unauthorised capitulation, negligence of war preparations and negligence of battle duty; attempts, accessories, accomplices and incitements of all the above crimes might also be punished with life. [39]under 21: no life imprisonmentBy the District Court of Orebro (parole hearing). Or by the Government (pardon).[40]
Switzerland SwitzerlandYes10 years or 15 years; individually set by judgeNoneYesNoneAggravated murder,[41] aggravated hostage-taking,[42] genocide,[43] endangering the independence of the country[44]under 15: no imprisonment
15–17: max. 4 years' imprisonment[45]
By Federal Assembly (Parliament)[46]
 Republic of China (Taiwan)Yes25 yearsNoneThird violent crimeAggravated murder, hard drug traffickingMany violent crimes causing death, etc.Banned by Criminal CodeBy President
 TajikistanYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorismTreasonYesBy President
 ThailandYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorism, drug trafficking and manufacturingKidnapping, sex offensesYesBy King
 TunisiaYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorism, treason, hijacking, espionage, attempting to overthrow the governmentDrug traffickingYesBy President
Turkey TurkeyYesLife imprisonment: 24 years (30 if organized crime), Multiple life imprisonments: 30 years (34 if organized crime), Aggravated life imprisonment: 30 years (36 if organized crime), Multiple aggravated life imprisonments: 36 years (40 if organized crime), or never (aggravated life imprisonment for terrorism)NoneYesMurder with special cirucumstances, treason, terrorismSexual offences, military and political crimesMaximum 24 yearsBy President in case of permanent illness, rehabilitation, disability or decrepitude
 TurkmenistanYesNeverNoneNoMurder, terrorismTreasonYesBy President
United Kingdom United Kingdom ( England and  Wales)YesIndividually set by judge (maximum Whole life tariff)NoneYesMurder, second serious violent or sexual crimeAll common law offences, rape, inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, treason, aggravated burglary, criminal damage with intent to endanger life, hijacking, destroying or endangering safety of an aircraft, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of a firearm with criminal intent, use of a firearm to resist arrest, terrorism, Importing or supplying Class A controlled drug10-17: starting point 12 years, maximum usually 15 years. 18-20: starting point 15 years, up to 30 years if serious enough that it would require a "whole life tariff" if the offender was 21+. 21+: starting point 15 years, whole life tariff or "forever". All offenders at least aged under 21 have to be set a release or parole date.Compassionate release and pardon by Secretary of State for Justice; amnesty by Royal decree alone (by means of the Royal prerogative of mercy) or with Act of Parliament in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty (last amnesty in 1747).
United KingdomUnited Kingdom:  ScotlandYesIndividually set by judgeNoneYesMurder ??No whole life tariffCompassionate release by Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Scottish Government); amnesty by royal decree (by means of the Royal prerogative of mercy) alone or with act of parliament (in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty).
United KingdomUnited Kingdom:  Northern IrelandYesIndividually set by judgeNoneNo[47][48]Murder, RapeRobbery ??General release through a referendum based agreement in 1998 (became applicable in 3 cases i, ii, iii). The Royal prerogative of mercy or an Act of Parliament (in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty) can be used to grant amnesty like the rest of the UK.
 UkraineYesNever; only pardon by PresidentNoneNoMurder with aggravating circumstances ??Maximum 15 yearsBy President
United States United States of AmericaYes15 years minimum to infinite, or never (depending on crime and state)NoneYesVaries by stateVaries by stateYes (de jure)By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)Yes (de jure)
 UruguayNoVaries, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence ??No life imprisonment sentence
 UzbekistanYes, only for men aged between 18 and 60 years25 years or never30 years for women and men over the age of 60NoNoneAggravated murder, terrorismMaximum 10 yearsBy President
 VenezuelaNoVaries, depending on sentence30 yearsNoNo life imprisonment sentenceNo life imprisonment sentence??No life imprisonment sentence
 VietnamYes12 years to term sentence and 14 to releaseNoneYes (de jure) ?? ??under 16: max. 14 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 18 years' imprisonment
By presidentYes

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The University of San Francisco Law School's Center for Law & Global Justice has found no cases outside of the United States in which the sentence is actually imposed on juveniles.
  3. ^ "State Distribution of Youth Offenders Serving Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP)". Human Rights Watch. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Stats by State « The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth". Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States", 2008.
  6. ^ David G. Savage (17 May 2010). "Supreme Court Restricts Life Sentences Without Parole for Juveniles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Drinan, C. H. (2012, March). "Graham on the Ground". Washington Law Review, 87(1), 51–91. Criminal Justice Abstracts. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Criminal justice: Supreme Court to consider constitutionality of life without parole for young killers". Chicago Tribune. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Court bars mandatory life without parole for youths, rejects cross case". Catholic News Service. 25 June 25 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Kevin Johnson (22 July 2009). "Report wants life without parole abolished". USA Today. 
  11. ^ "section 18 of the Austrian criminal code". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  12. ^ (French) (Dutch) extract from the Belgian Official Journal 17 March 2013.
  13. ^ (Dutch) Jeugdsanctierecht in Europa: is uithandengeving een evidentie? Jura falconis, jg 44, 2007–2008, nr 1, pp. 3–38
  14. ^ Brazil's Constitution prohibits the death penalty with a saving allowing the death penalty in wartime, if the state of war is duly declared by Congress (art. 5, item XLVII, subitem "a)"); the Constitution's next line (art. 5, item XLVII, subitem "b)"), prohibits life sentences. The clause prohibiting life imprisonment does not contain a saving similar to the death penalty clause, and thus life sentences are not allowed even in wartime. It is unclear, however, if the Presidential power of mercy, that allows the President to pardon or commute a penal sentence, could be used to reduce a death penalty imposed in wartime, transforming it into a sentence of life imprisonment.
  15. ^ "Criminal code of the Republic of Bulgaria". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "Baumgartner gets life with no parole for 40 years; harshest punishment in decades". CTV News. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Jen Gerson (11 September 2013). "Travis Baumgartner given harshest sentence since elimination of the death penalty for killing three co-workers". National Post. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Kovčo Vukadin, Irma; Žakman-Ban, Vladimira; Jandrić-Nišević, Anita (2010). "Prisoner Rehabilitation in Croatia" (PDF). Varstvoslovje, Journal of Criminal Justice and Security 12 (2): 143–162. ISSN 1580-0253. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  19. ^ "Czech Criminal Code". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  20. ^ (The court may decide that only the time in less-than-maximum security prison counts for the purposes of parole and that the convict must serve at least ten years in maximum security; good behavior record needed for transfer to lower security in which 20 years must be served then)
  21. ^ af ptho for TV 2 Nyhederne. "Hvorfor er livstid kun 16 år i Danmark? – TV 2 Nyhederne". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
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  24. ^ "Oikeuslaitos – Imprisonment and community service". Retrieved 3 August 2011. [dead link]
  25. ^ sec. 57a(1) German Criminal Code Strafgesetzbuch
  26. ^ sec. 211(1) German Criminal Code
  27. ^ sec. 6(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes Völkerstrafgesetzbuch
  28. ^ sec. 7(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes
  29. ^ sec. 8(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes
  30. ^ Article 549 Penal Code
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  33. ^ For details of new rulings from Mexican Supreme Court, see: "Wanted Fugitive Raul Gomez Garcia Extradited to the U.S." (US Embassy in Mexico)[dead link] and Mexico alters extradition rules (BBC News))
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  38. ^ § 117 Slovak Criminal Code
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  41. ^ art. 112 Swiss Criminal Code
  42. ^ art. 185 Swiss Criminal Code
  43. ^ art. 264 Swiss Criminal Code
  44. ^ art. 266 Swiss Criminal Code
  45. ^ (French)art. 25 Juvenile Criminal Code
  46. ^ art. 173 al. 1 let. k Constitution of the Swiss Confederation
  47. ^ Deborah McAleese; Emily Moulton (28 June 2008). "Fury over ruling that could see Attracta's killer freed". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  48. ^ Neutral Citation No.[2008] NICA 27

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