I can think of no authors more qualified to research the complex impact of life sentences than Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis. They have the expertise to track down the information that all citizens need to know and the skills to translate that research into accessible and powerful prose. --Heather Ann Thompson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood in the Water From the director of the renowned Sentencing Project and author of the classic Race to Incarcerate , a forceful and necessary argument for eliminating life sentences, including profiles of lifers by formerly incarcerated author Kerry Myers Most Western democracies have few or no people serving life sentences, and research suggests that maximum sentences of twenty years for all but the most heinous crimes are just as effective. Yet here in the United States, over 200,000 people are serving life in prison. How has the United States become the world leader in imposing life behind bars? Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing Project argue that there is no practical or moral justification for a sentence longer than twenty years. In fact, harsher sentences have been shown to have little effect on crime rates, and a broad body of research demonstrates that people age out of crime, meaning that we're devoting significant resources to incarcerating individuals who pose little threat to public safety. Such extreme punishment for serious crime also has an inflationary effect on sentences across the spectrum, helping to account for severe mandatory minimums and the criminalization of minor offenses. A thoughtful and stirring call to action, The Meaning of Life also features moving profiles of a half-dozen people currently serving life sentences, written by a former lifer and award-winning writer Kerry Myers, who was falsely convicted of murder and released after serving twenty-seven years of his life-without-parole sentence. The book will tie in to a campaign spearheaded by the Sentencing Project, and offers a much needed road map to a more humane criminal justice system.