On May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that teenagers may not be locked up for life without the possibility of parole if they have not killed anyone. This decision was made by a 5-4 vote. It was decided that the Constitution requires that juveniles serving life sentences must at least be considered for release. The Court must give the opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.
In the state of Maryland over 2,300 inmates are serving life sentences, that is almost 10 percent of the prison population. Nationwide, however, one of every 11 prisoners is serving a life sentence that is about the same rate as in Maryland. In 2005, 132,000 people were serving life sentences and in 2009 this number jumped to 140,610. This jump is believed to be due to tougher policies on crime.
77 percent of inmates in prison for life sentences in Maryland are African American, making it the state with the largest share of Black prisoners serving life sentences Nationwide. Of the 269 people that are serving life sentences in Maryland for crimes committed when they were juveniles, 226 are black.
In the state of Virginia, about 2,100 inmates are serving life sentences, nearly 6 percent of the prison population. About 62 percent of the 2,100 inmates are black. Of the 107 people that are serving life sentences in Virginia for crimes committed when they were juveniles, 87 were black.
Federal Prisons in D.C. have about 5,400 out of 200,000 inmates serving life sentences.
Nationwide, 48 percent of criminals serving life sentences are black, 14 percent are Hispanic and 33 percent are white.
The increase in inmates service life sentences without the possibility of parole has increased much rapidly nationwide. In 1992, 12,400 were serving life sentences without the possibility of parole and now that number in 2009 has risen to 41,000.