Life imprisonment is a punishment offered by criminal courts in many different countries. Not all countries have this form of punishment. The sentence may be defined as having to spend the rest of a person’s life in jail, though there are some discrepancies with this definition. It is usually thought to be the second most severe punishment, next to the death penalty, and it tends to be most exercised if a person has committed an extreme crime.
Understanding the concept of life imprisonment means differentiating from what may be called a life sentence. Sometimes a life sentence is a specific period of years, perhaps 20 or 30. After that time, people may get paroled if they have behaved well. Alternately, a judge may sentence someone to life imprisonment and it’s possible that at a set point the person still may be released. Some people have committed so many crimes that they end up with hundreds of years of sentences to serve, which are in effect life imprisonment, with one exception. If these sentences can be served concurrently, they may still mean possibility of parole.
The real life imprisonment tends to mean that there is no chance of getting out, ever. This could be life without possibility of parole and it means the person will be in jail until he or she dies. The profoundly severe nature of this sentence is often reflected in the crimes to which it might apply. People who have committed treason against a country or murdered others may be most likely to receive life. Many countries also view this as an appropriate punishment for those who have participated in significant dealing of illegal drugs or whose actions are so horrific, the chance of redeeming the person through the “correctional system” are considered impossible, such as when people rape children.
While it may be good to reflect that people who commit atrocious crimes might get life imprisonment, the sentence may be misapplied depending on the country. In many countries with significant human rights challenges, a life in jail might occur from very different activities. These could include criticizing government figures, behaving in a manner that conflicts with a fundamental interpretation of a religion, or other things. As much as life imprisonment may be a good in protecting society members, it can also be a way to control members of society who might oppose the status quo. Some countries do not stop at recommending a life in prison sentence, but proceed directly to execution.
There are countries that don’t possess a life imprisonment charge, and some critics of most penal systems suggest this punishment is misapplied, given endemic torturous living standards of many prisons. Some even go so far as to say such imprisonment constitutes abuse and that people would almost be better off with a death sentence. Others argue that horrific crimes deserve maximum sentences. Such arguments are unlikely to be fully settled, even as most countries attempt to perfect fair justice systems.