Sentencing Alternatives

Life Without Parole

Considering the economic and social costs of capital punishment, including the risk of executing innocent people, many believe that life without parole, or LWOP, is a preferable alternative to capital punishment. LWOP is a sentencing alternative in all 28 states that practice the death penalty, in addition to the federal government and U.S. Military. Of the 22 states that do not practice the death penalty, Alaska is the only state that does not permit life without parole as a possible sentence.

Among the ten states that have abolished the death penalty since 2007, all utilize sentences of life without parole. Four states require unanimous jury agreement to life without parole for the LWOP-eligible defendant to be sentenced. Three states impose an automatic LWOP sentence if the defendant is found guilty of an LWOP-eligible crime, and one state—Maryland—requires final sentencing by a judge.

Death Penalty States
offering Life Without Parole*
(28/28 states)
AlabamaLouisianaSouth Carolina
ArizonaMississippiSouth Dakota
GeorgiaNorth CarolinaVirginia


KansasOregonFederal Statute
KentuckyPennsylvaniaMilitary Statute

* Note that “three strikes” laws in some states may make life without parole available for at least some offenders in those states.

Non-Death Penalty States offering Life Without Parole (21/22 states)
ColoradoMassachusettsNorth Dakota
ConnecticutMichiganRhode Island
HawaiiNebraskaWest Virginia
IllinoisNew HampshireWisconsin
IowaNew JerseyWashington
MaineNew Mexico
MarylandNew York

plus District of Columbia

[Alaska does not have life without parole]