Lifers without the chance to parole face a different kind of death sentence
From the series Uncuffed:
Life without the possibility of parole — LWOP — is a sentence in some ways equal to the death penalty. It means you will spend the rest of your life in prison. The only reprieve is by a governor's commutation or pardon, which is as rare as snow in Barstow, California.
I'm an LWOP who has been incarcerated for over 40 years and still my sentence has not been commuted.
"I'm happy that you got your commutation. But I've been in since 1977 and I'm wondering what's happened with mine."
Former Governor Jerry Brown commuted sentences of over 100 LWOPs, giving them the chance to parole if approved by the parole board. There are still about 5000 LWOPs in the state.
The act of commutation is an act of mercy exclusively by the governor’s discretion. There are no guidelines, and a lot of reformed LWOPs were left behind.
Recently I discussed the process with Hung Ly, who had his LWOP sentence plus 25-years-to-life sentence commuted.
Spoon Jackson spoke with Hung Ly in December. At the time, Spoon was hoping then-Governor Brown would commute his sentence before the end of his term in office. Brown left office without acting on Spoon's request.
Uncuffed is produced by men at Solano State Prison. Learn more about them here.
KALW’s radio training program at Solano State Prison is supported by the California Arts Council, with funding from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. All content is approved by a prison information officer.