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Death by Incarceration

Is Torture

On September 15, 2022, a coalition of organizations from across the United States submitted a complaint to United Nations independent experts challenging the United States' policy and practice of condemning people to death by incarceration (DBI), also known as life sentences. Over 40 people currently serving DBI submitted letters in support of the complaint.

Since then, the coalition has engaged in other advocacy with the United Nations – including additional complaints, as well as a trip to Geneva in which a delegation of people formerly sentenced to DBI, loved ones of those currently sentenced to DBI, and other advocates traveled to the United Nations Human Rights Committee during its review of the United States and called on the United Nations to urge the United States to end its cruel and racially discriminatory practice of DBI.

As a result of this advocacy, the United Nations has: condemned DBI, advised the United States to ensure that all sentences include parole eligibility, and it has called for a moratorium on LWOP sentences.

In 2020, 15% of the total prison population, or 203,865 people, were serving life or virtual life sentences

The United States’ extreme prison sentencing policies and practices, including life without parole, life with parole, “virtual life,”  and other sentences that exceed life expectancy and thus effectively condemn individuals to death by incarceration, violate the prohibition against torture, violate the prohibition against racial discrimination, violate individuals’ right to life, and are cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and an arbitrary deprivation of liberty. 

Language matters. It not only shapes our reality but it also gives us the power to shape the reality around us. Too many death penalty “abolitionists” advocate for death in prison precisely because we call it life. Truth is, both versions begin and end the same way: bodies vertical, bodies horizontal.

– Felix Rosado, sentenced to LWOP in Pennsylvania

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Death by incarceration condemns people across the country to a slow death penalty in prison with little to no hope of release, depriving over 200,000 people of basic human dignity and the opportunity for redemption and repair. #DBIisTorture


Read current news about the complaint and contact us with any media inquiries

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