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What It’s Like to Spend Your Life in Prison (Video)


In the United States, over 50,000 individuals are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, with 70% of these inmates being Black. This reality is exemplified by the experiences of inmates at Angola Prison in Louisiana, who share their stories and reflect on their lives and transformations within the prison system.

Life Before Prison

Many of the inmates at Angola were convicted as teenagers, with ages ranging from 17 to 18 years old at the time of their crimes. These individuals committed serious offenses, including murder and armed robbery, which resulted in life sentences without parole.

Personal Reflections and Regret

The inmates often express deep regret for their past actions. They acknowledge the lives they took and the impact on the victims’ families. They also reflect on their own growth and transformation over decades of incarceration.

Contributions and Self-Worth

Despite being incarcerated, many inmates find ways to contribute positively within the prison community. Some inmates have taken on roles as tutors, helping illiterate prisoners learn to read and write. Others have volunteered in hospice programs, providing care for dying inmates, which has given them a sense of purpose and compassion.

Aging Prison Population

The U.S. prison population is aging, and maintaining elderly inmates is costly, with taxpayers spending about $70,000 annually per elderly prisoner. Programs like Angola’s hospice initiative highlight the growing need for compassionate care within the prison system.

Education and Skill Development

Some inmates pursue educational opportunities while serving their sentences. They earn diplomas and certifications in various fields, preparing themselves for potential reintegration into society. These efforts are driven by the hope of becoming assets rather than liabilities if they were ever to be released.

The Debate on Second Chances

There is ongoing debate about whether individuals who have demonstrated significant personal growth and transformation should be given a chance at parole. Second look reforms propose offering parole opportunities to those who have served substantial portions of their sentences and have shown genuine rehabilitation.

Potential Benefits of Reforms

Implementing second look reforms could lead to significant savings for taxpayers and improved public safety. Statistics show that less than 3% of lifers who are released are re-arrested, often for technical violations rather than violent crimes.


The stories from Angola Prison underscore the complex nature of life sentences without parole. While some argue for continued punishment, others advocate for mercy and the potential for rehabilitation. The question remains whether the criminal justice system should offer second chances to those who have shown true change.


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