A decade of "get tough on crime" campaigns - especially demands that a life sentence should mean life - has created a record total of 127,000 lifers in the American prison system, almost double the figure in 1992 and four times the 1983 level.

Recent moves to toughen sentencing laws have led to an unprecedented explosion in life sentences, including imposing terms without any chance of parole, the liberal Washington think-tank, the Sentencing Project, said yesterday.
"Lifers" now account for one in 11 of all those in US prisons. A quarter are serving life without parole and can expect to die behind bars.

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