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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Life imprisonment (also known as a life sentence, life-long incarceration or life incarceration) is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime where the convicted person is to remain in prison for the rest of his or her life. Examples of crimes for which a person could receive this sentence include: murder, high treason, severe or violent cases of drug or human trafficking, or aggravated cases of burglary or robbery resulting in death or great bodily harm.

This sentence does not exist in all countries. However, where life imprisonment is a possible sentence, there may also be formal mechanisms to request parole after a certain time of having been in prison. This means that a convict could be entitled to spend the rest of the sentence (i.e., until he or she dies) outside prison; this is usually conditional depending on past and future conduct, possibly with certain restrictions or obligations. In contrast to jurisdictions without life imprisonment, a convict after having served the given prison sentence is free upon release.

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 of legally being entitled to apply for parole does often not tell anything about the actual date of being granted parole. Article 110 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that for the gravest forms of crimes (e.g., 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 life imprisonment. After this period, the court shall then review the sentence to determine whether it should be reduced.

Like other areas of criminal law, sentences handed to minors may 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. Of these, only the United States has minors serving such sentences, according to an updated 2008 joint study by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. As of 2009, Human Rights Watch has calculated that there are 2,574[1] youth offenders serving life without parole in the United States.[2]

Contents

World view

Life imprisonment laws around the world.
Blue indicates those countries where life imprisonment laws have been abolished.
Red means the country retains it.
Green means life imprisonment may only be imposed for men.
Grey means status unknown, presumed legal.

Overview by jurisdiction

Jurisdiction (link to details) Life imprisonment Minimum to serve before eligibility for requesting parole Maximum length of sentence Indefinite sentence (excl. preventive or psychiatric detainment) Mandatory sentence Possible other sentence Under age of 18 (or 21) Pardon, amnesty, other release
Argentina Yes 13 – 25 years, or never None Yes Murder of a relative; murder of or by a police officer; treason Serial rape  ?? By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)
Austria Yes 15 years[citation needed] None Yes  ??  ?? Maximum length 20 years Pardon by president
Australia Yes 10 years, 20 years, 25 years, or never; individually set by judge None Yes Murder of police officer or other public official, murder in South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, aircraft hijacking Treason, terrorism, drug trafficking, rape Must have minimum term set (under age of 18) Compassionate release by governor of state, or governor-general
Belarus Yes 25 years None  ??  ??  ?? Maximum length 15 years  ??
Belgium Yes 10 years, or 16 years if recidivist[citation needed] None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Bolivia No Varies, depending on sentence 30 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Bosnia and Herzegovina No Varies, depending on sentence 40 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Brazil No (except in wartime)[citation needed] Varies, depending on sentence 30 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Canada Yes 10–25 years None  ?? High treason and murder Drug trafficking, terrorism, sexual assault, impaired driving causing death, street racing causing death, crimes against humanity No, unless tried as an adult Compassionate release and pardon by minister of justice
Colombia No Varies, depending on sentence 60 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
China Yes 10 years or never[3] None Yes  ??  ??  ??  ??
Croatia No Varies, depending on sentence 40 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence No No life imprisonment sentence
Cyprus Yes 20 years None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Czech Republic[4] Yes 20 years None No None some cases of murder, treason, terrorism, genocide, robbery, kidnapping, rape No life imprisonment sentence  ??
Denmark Yes Never[citation needed] 16 years Yes  ??  ?? Maximum length 15 years After 12 years entitled to request to Minister of Justice; granted by King or Queen of Denmark
Dominican Republic No Varies, depending on sentence 30 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Ecuador No Varies, depending on sentence 25 years (35 years in exceptional cases) No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Estonia Yes Never[5] None Yes (de facto)  ??  ?? Maximum length 20 years Pardon by president[6]
Finland Yes 12 years, or never[7] None Yes Murder, purposefully killing police officer Genocide, High Treason, Espionage, War Crimes Maximum length 15 years (under age of 18); minimum 10 years for parole request (under age of 21) By president
France Yes 18 -22 years, 30 years, or never None Yes None Aggravated murder, treason, terrorism, drug trafficking Maximum length 20 years (under age of 16) By president
Germany Yes 15 years, 18 years, or 26 years; individually set by judge None No Murder, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes against a person See details Maximum length 10 years By Federal President or Minister-Presidents
Hungary Yes 20 – 40 years, or never None Yes  ??  ??  ?? By president
India Yes Varies, depending on sentence None Yes Yes, for certain specified offences  ??  ?? May be pardoned by President or have sentence commuted by Government
Indonesia No Varies, depending on sentence 80 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Ireland Yes 12– 30 years, or never; individually set by judge None Yes[citation needed] Murder, treason, some syringe injuries, etc. see details See details  ?? By President
Israel Yes 13 – 30 years, or never None Yes[citation needed] Murder  ??  ?? By president
Italy Yes 21 years, 26 years, or never None Yes Murder, terrorism  ?? No life imprisonment sentence By president
Jamaica Yes 10 – 30 years or never; individually set by judge None Yes  ??  ??  ??  ??
Japan Yes 10 years None No  ??  ?? No life imprisonment without parole  ??
Kazakhstan Yes 25 years None Yes  ??  ??  ??  ??
Kiribati Yes 5 - 25 years, or never None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Laos Yes Never None Yes  ??  ??  ??  ??
Latvia Yes 20 years None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Macau No Varies, depending on sentence 25 years (30 in exceptional circumstances)[8] No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Mexico No Varies, depending on sentence 60 years No [9] No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
The Netherlands Yes Never None Yes (de facto) None Murder, manslaughter, terrorism, treason, etc. No life imprisonment sentence under 16 By monarch (almost never granted)
Nepal No Varies, depending on sentence 20 years[citation needed] No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
New Zealand Yes 10 – 17 years; individually set by judge None  ?? Murder, treason Manslaughter, certain drug related  ?? Sentence may be reduced or pardon granted by the Governor General (Rarely done)
Nigeria Yes Never[10] None Yes  ??  ?? No life imprisonment sentence  ??
North Korea Yes Never None Yes (de facto and de jure) Murder, espionage, treason  ??  ?? By president (never happened)[citation needed]
Norway No Varies, depending on sentence 21 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Pakistan Yes 25 years None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Philippines No Varies, depending on sentence 40 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Poland Yes 25 years - 50 years None No Some cases of war crimes and genocide committed during WWII Genocide, war crimes, high treason, murder, assassination attempt of Polish president Maximum length 25 years (under age of 18) Pardon by president (never happened since reintroduction of sentence in 1995), Amnesty by act of parliament (last amnesty in 1989)
Portugal No Varies, depending on sentence 25 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Romania Yes 20 years None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Republic of the Congo No Varies, depending on sentence 30 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Russia Only men aged 18–65 25 years 25 years (30 years in exceptional circumstances) for all women, and men over the age of 65 No Not mandatory for men aged 18–65[citation needed]; no life imprisonment sentence for all women, and men over the age of 65 See details Maximum length 10 years (under age of 18) By president
Slovakia Yes 30 years None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
South Africa Yes 10, 15, or 25 years; hearing mandatory after 25 years[citation needed] None No[citation needed] Certain murder, rape and robbery  ??  ??  ??
Switzerland Yes 10 years, 15 years or never; individually set by judge None Yes None Aggravated murder[11], aggravated hostage-taking[12], genocide [13], endangering the independence of the country [14] Maximum 4 years if between 15-17 years (under 15 years, no imprisonment)[15] By Federal Assembly (Parliament)[16]
Sweden Yes 10 years None Yes None Murder, kidnapping, arson, war crimes, espionage, sabotage No life imprisonment sentence By the court of Örebro
South Korea Yes 10 years None  ?? high treason, robbery (rape) with deadly outcomes, arson, murder of relative, etc  ?? Maximum 10 years (For certain violent crimes 20 years) By President and requires agreement of National Assembly
Serbia No Varies, depending on sentence 40 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Spain No Varies, depending on sentence 30 years (40 years in terrorism related cases) No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence  ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Taiwan Yes 25 years None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Turkey Yes 25 years or, in cases of terrorism, never None Yes  ??  ??  ??  ??
UK: England and Wales Yes 15 – 40 years or never; individually set by judge None Yes Murder Rape, inflicting GBH with intent, wounding with intent, treason, aggravated burglary, Criminal Damage with intent to endanger life No whole life tariff (under age of 21) Compassionate release and pardon by minister of justice; amnesty by royal decree alone or with act of parliament (last amnesty in 1747).
UK: Scotland Yes 15 – 35 years or never; individually set by judge None Yes Murder  ?? No whole life tariff Compassionate release by Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Scottish Government); amnesty by royal decree alone or with act of parliament (last amnesty in 1747)
UK: Northern Ireland Yes 15 – 35 years; individually set by judge None No[17][18] Murder  ??  ?? General release through a referendum based agreement in 1998 (became applicable in 3 cases i, ii, iii)
Ukraine Yes 25 years; 15 years No Murder with aggravating circumstances  ??  ?? By President
United States Yes 15 – 25 years, or never (depending on jurisdiction) None Yes Varies by state Varies by state No differentiation to age of 18 or over[19] By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)
Uruguay No Varies, depending on sentence 30 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Uzbekistan Yes 25 years[citation needed] None  ??  ??  ??  ??  ??
Venezuela No Varies, depending on sentence 30 years No No life imprisonment sentence No life imprisonment sentence ?? No life imprisonment sentence
Vietnam Yes Never None Yes (de jure)  ??  ??  ?? Usually amnesty after 20–30 years[citation needed]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/02/state-distribution-juvenile-offenders-serving-juvenile-life-without-parole
  2. ^ "The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States", 2008.
  3. ^ art.81 chinese Criminal Code
  4. ^ Czech Criminal Code
  5. ^ http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/rwinslow/europe/estonia.html
  6. ^ http://shaan.typepad.com/shaanou/2008/11/estonia-release.html
  7. ^ http://www.oikeus.fi/16073.htm
  8. ^ "Código Penal - Art. 1 a 100" (in Portuguese). Imprensa Oficial (Government Printing Bureau). 14 November 1995. http://bo.io.gov.mo/bo/i/95/46/codpenpt/codpen0001.asp#1. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  9. ^ For details of new rulings from Mexican Supreme Court, see: "Wanted Fugitive Raul Gomez Garcia Extradited to the U.S." (US Embassy in Mexico) and Mexico alters extradition rules (BBC News))
  10. ^ http://connectafrica.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/6-nigerian-soldiers-bag-life-imprisonment
  11. ^ art. 112 Swiss Criminal Code
  12. ^ art. 185 Swiss Criminal Code
  13. ^ art. 264 Swiss Criminal Code
  14. ^ art. 266 Swiss Criminal Code
  15. ^ (French)art. 25 Juvenile Criminal Code
  16. ^ art. 173 al. 1 let. k Constitution of the Swiss Confederation
  17. ^ Belfast Telegraph Fury over ruling that could see Attracta’s killer freed Saturday, 28 June 2008
  18. ^ Neutral Citation No.[2008] NICA 27 http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D4920842-6C93-4664-8B52-641C305CCF6A/0/j_j_KER7217Final.htm
  19. ^ "The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States", 2008. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/us1005execsum.pdf

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