After Life Imprisonment

Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration

288 pages

12 tables, 4 maps, and 3 figures

September, 2016

ISBN: 9781479882823



Add to Cart Available: 8/19/2016

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Marieke Liem is Senior Researcher and chair of the Violence Research Initiative at Leiden University and a Marie Curie Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

All books by Marieke Liem

Robert J. Sampson is Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. He is the author of several books, including Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect.

All books by Robert J. Sampson

One out of every ten prisoners in the United States is serving a life sentence—roughly 130,000 people. While some have been sentenced to life in prison without parole, the majority of prisoners serving ‘life’ will be released back into society. But what becomes of those people who reenter the everyday world after serving life in prison?

In After Life Imprisonment, Marieke Liem carefully examines the experiences of “lifers” upon release. Through interviews with over sixty homicide offenders sentenced to life but granted parole, Liem tracks those able to build a new life on the outside and those who were re-incarcerated. The interviews reveal prisoners’ reflections on being sentenced to life, as well as the challenges of employment, housing, and interpersonal relationships upon release. Liem explores the increase in handing out of life sentences, and specifically provides a basis for discussions of the goals, costs, and effects of long-term imprisonment, ultimately unpacking public policy and discourse surrounding long-term incarceration. A profound criminological examination, After Life Imprisonment reveals the untold, lived experiences of prisoners before and after their life sentences.


  • “Considering the enormity of the sanction, it is remarkable how little we know about the lives of those who survive life imprisonment. With the powerful narratives in this ground-breaking book, Marieke Liem brings their perspectives into new light and asks ‘when is enough, enough?’ in terms of the punitive state."

    —Shadd Maruna, co-author of Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives

  • “Of interest to both criminological researchers and policymakers, After Life Imprisonment deserves careful reading….A fascinating work of original and creative research.”

    —from the Foreword by Robert Sampson, author of Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect

  • "Marieke Liem’s new book, After Life Imprisonment: Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration, is a fresh take on [prisoner reentry] that focuses on an understudied population: those serving a life sentence…[We] can think of “lifers” as canaries in the coal mine, since they are the group with the greatest exposure to the American experiment of mass incarceration and the abandonment of the rehabilitative ideal…The reentry process for these individuals is unique and their challenges are emblematic of the consequences of long-term incarceration."

    —Jamie F. Fader, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University