The Buried Alive Project researched and analyzed over 30 years of data to determine the population and characteristics of men and women across the country sentenced to life without parole under federal drug laws. We compiled the data in four year increments to follow presidential administrations. Using the project’s interactive data platform below, you can drill down by 4-year increments, circuit, and state to get a snapshot of key figures related to total number of people, race, gender, age, and jury trials vs guilty pleas.
Special thanks to SMU’s Department of Statistical Science and Kandice Kapinos, economist at RAND Corporation, for assisting us with statistical analysis.
Source: United States Sentencing Commission datasets. Note that these figures represent people admitted to federal prison between 1988-2016 to serve life without parole for federal drug offenses. The total number of admissions to prison does not equal the total number of people currently in prison serving this sentence. For instance, the Bureau of Prisons reported to The Sentencing Projectthat there were 1,895 people in prison serving life without parole for federal drug offenses as of 2016. The discrepancy can likely be explained by events such as commutations of sentence (President Obama commuted life sentences for 568people), successful post-conviction appeals, and deaths). The Buried Alive Project submitted a FOIA request to the Bureau of Prisons in August 2017 for updated numbers but have yet to receive the requested information.