“Some guys don’t break any rules. They do their jobs, they go to school, they don’t commit any infractions, they keep their cells clean and tidy, and they follow the rules. And usually those are our LWOPs [life without parole]. They’re usually our easiest keepers.”
Too Easy to Keep provides much-needed attention to a neglected group of American prisoners – the large and growing population of those serving life sentences. Relying heavily on extensive interviews with lifers and with prison staff, Too Easy to Keep charts the challenges that a life sentence poses—both to the prisoner and the staffer charged with caring for them. Surprisingly, many lifers show remarkable resilience and craft lives of notable purpose. Yet their eventual decline will pose challenges for the institutions that house them. Rich in data, Too Easy to Keep illustrates the harsh consequences of excessive sentences, and demonstrates a keen need to reconsider punishment policy.
Steve Herbert is Mark Torrance Professor and Department Chair of Law, Societies, and Justice at the University of Washington. He is the author of Policing Space: Territoriality and the Los Angeles Police Department; Citizens, Cops, and Power: Recognizing the Limits of Community; and, with Katherine Beckett, Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America.