“Pine box parole” is an euphemism used to describe the plight of a federal criminal defendant who received a life sentence (or one so long it might as well have been life). In Fiscal Year 2013, federal judges imposed life sentences on 153 people and another 168 received sentences so long (more than 470 months) that they are effectively serving life sentences. Of the 153 life sentences, 64 (42%) were imposed in drug cases; 45% of the defendants were black; 98% were males; 105 went to trial; and 69 had a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment.
Here’s some data that will shed some light on the magnitude of the problem. As of January 2015, there were 4,436 prisoners serving life sentences, accounting for 2.5% of the federal prison population and about 1.1% of the population (1,983 inmates) were serving sentences longer than 470 months! These folks are obviously well acquainted with the old adage–“do the time, don’t let the time do you!”