|Criminal trials and convictions|
|Rights of the accused|
|Related areas of law|
Life imprisonment (also known as a life sentence, lifelong incarceration or life incarceration) is any sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in prison for the rest of his or her life or until paroled. Crimes for which a person could receive this sentence include murder, attempted murder, severe child abuse, rape, espionage, high treason, drug dealing, human trafficking, severe cases of fraud, aggravated criminal damage in English law and aggravated cases of arson, burglary or robbery resulting in death or grievous bodily harm.
Life imprisonment can, in certain cases, also be imposed for transportation offences causing death, as a maximum term. Some American states and Canada allow judges to impose life imprisonment for such offences.
This sentence does not exist in all countries. Portugal was the first country in the world to abolish life imprisonment by the prison reforms of Sampaio e Melo in 1884. However, where life imprisonment is a possible sentence, there may also be formal mechanisms to request parole after a certain period of imprisonment. This means that a convict could be entitled to spend the rest of the sentence (until he or she dies) outside prison. Early release is usually conditional depending on past and future conduct, possibly with certain restrictions or obligations. In contrast, when a fixed term of imprisonment has ended, the convict is free.
The length of time and the modalities surrounding parole vary greatly for each jurisdiction. In some places, convicts are entitled to apply for parole relatively early, in others, only after several decades. However, the time until being entitled to apply for parole does not necessarily tell anything about the actual date of parole being granted. Article 110 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stipulates that for the gravest forms of crimes (such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide), a prisoner ought to serve two-thirds of a fixed sentence, or 35-50 years in the case of a life sentence. The highest determined prison sentence that can be imposed in the ICC, aside from life imprisonment, is 30 years (article 77 1) a)). After this period, the court will review the sentence to determine whether or not it should be reduced.
The US has the world's largest population behind bars and leads in life sentences as well, at a rate of 50 people per 100,000 residents imprisoned for life. Some technically finite sentences are handed out, especially in the United States that exceed a century and thus are seen as being 'de facto' life sentences, since without indefinite life extension nobody would ever be able to live long enough to serve those sentences. Additionally, for particularly heinous crimes, courts will sometimes tack additional years onto the sentence, in addition to life imprisonment, in order to ensure that no amount of good behavior could ever result in the person being set free. For example, Ariel Castro, the perpetrator of the Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Georgina "Gina" Dejesus kidnappings, was sentenced to "life plus 1,000 years," on August 1, 2013, for the 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder stemming from those kidnappings, which he pled guilty to. Courts in South Africa have handed out at least two sentences that have exceeded a century (to Moses Sithole and Eugene de Kock) and were thus symbolic life sentences.
Unlike other areas of criminal law, sentences handed to minors do not differ from those given to legal adults. A few countries worldwide allow for minors to be given lifetime sentences that have no provision for eventual release. Countries that allow life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juveniles include Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina (only juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18, as those under the age of 16 cannot be held accountable for their actions and cannot be tried), Australia, Belize, Brunei, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Of these, only the United States currently has minors serving such sentences, though even in the U.S., life sentences without parole for juveniles who are under 18 cannot be given automatically, and are only for certain cases of first-degree murder, once the judge and jury have considered mitigating and aggravating factors (the death penalty is no longer constitutional for U.S. minors). As of 2009, Human Rights Watch had calculated that there were 2,589 youth offenders serving life without parole in the United States.
In 2011 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sentencing minors to life without parole, automatically (as the result of a statute) or as the result of a judicial decision, for crimes other than intentional homicide, violated the 8th Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishments", in the case of Graham v. Florida.
Graham v. Florida was a significant case in juvenile justice. In Jacksonville, Florida, Terrence J. Graham tried to rob a restaurant along with three adolescent accomplices. During the robbery one of Graham's accomplices had a metal bar that he used to hit the restaurant manager twice in the head. Once arrested, Graham was charged with attempted armed robbery and armed burglary with assault/battery. The maximum sentence he faced from these charges was life without the possibility of parole, and the prosecutor wanted to charge him as an adult. During the trial, Graham pled guilty to the charges, resulting in three years of probation, one year of which had to be served in jail. Since he had been awaiting trial in jail, he already served six months and therefore was released after six additional months.
Within six months of his release, Graham was involved in another robbery. Since he violated the conditions of his probation, his probation officer reported to the trial court about his probation violations a few weeks before Graham turned 18 years old. It was a different judge presiding over his trial for the probation violations a year later. While Graham denied any involvement of the robbery, he did admit to fleeing from the police. The trial court found that Graham violated his probation by "committing a home invasion robbery, possessing a firearm, and associating with persons engaged in criminal activity", and sentenced him to 15 years for the attempted armed robbery plus life imprisonment for the armed burglary. The life sentence Graham received meant he had a life sentence without the possibility of parole, "because Florida abolished their parole system in 2003".
Graham's case was presented to the United States Supreme Court, with the question of whether juveniles should receive life without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases. The Justices eventually ruled that such a sentence violated the juvenile's 8th Amendment rights, protecting them from punishments that are disproportionate to the crime committed, resulting in the abolition of life sentences without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases for juveniles.
The Supreme Court considered, in the spring of 2012, the question of whether or not minors should be sentenced, at least automatically, to life without parole for any crime at all, including the only cases in which such a punishment was at that time an option: first-degree murder with aggravating factors (felony murder, where life without parole was then given as an option to juveniles, and where an adult in the same context could be charged with capital murder and given life or the death penalty). On 25 June 2012, according to the Catholic News Service (CNS) news brief posted that day, the Court ruled on the case of Miller v. Alabama in a 5–4 decision and with the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Elena Kagan that life in prison without parole as an automatic sentence would be considered unconstitutional in all cases in the United States. The majority opinion stated that the judge should take into account mitigating factors and other information that are usually of relevance during the sentencing phase. Such factors would include, but are not limited to: information on the nature of the crime and the victim(s), age, record, potential for rehabilitation and contribution to society, wishes of the prosecution, defense, and the victim's family, maturity level, degree of malice and forethought and degree of participation, aggravating circumstances or accompanying crimes, family environment and related circumstances such as a history of mistreatment, literacy and educational level, psychosocial and neurological development, and many others. Their reasoning was that such a sentence violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision was announced on the penultimate day of the 2011–12 Supreme Court term. For now, a sentence of life in prison without parole could still be handed down for aggravated first-degree murder if it was determined, after those relevant considerations, to be warranted.
Reform or abolition
In a number of countries, life imprisonment has been effectively abolished. Many of the countries whose governments have abolished both life imprisonment and indefinite imprisonment have been culturally influenced or colonized by Spain or Portugal, and have written such prohibitions into their current constitutional laws.
A number of European countries have abolished all forms of indefinite imprisonment, including Serbia, Croatia, and Spain, which set the maximum sentence at 40 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which sets the maximum sentence at 45 years, and also Portugal, which sets the maximum sentence at 25 years, while Norway has abolished life imprisonment but retains other forms of indefinite imprisonment.
In South and Central America, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic have all abolished life imprisonment. The maximum sentence is 75 years in El Salvador, 60 years in Colombia, 50 years in Costa Rica and Panama, 40 years in Honduras, 35 years in Ecuador, 30 years in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela, and 25 years in Paraguay. Brazil has a maximum sentence of 30 years under statutory law, but capital punishment and life imprisonment during wartime (for military crimes such as treason, desertion, and mutiny) are allowed in the Constitution.
In the United States, a 2009 report by the Sentencing Project suggested that life imprisonment without parole should be abolished, a suggestion that was met with opposition from law enforcement officials.
Life imprisonment is generally considered to be a more humane and ethical alternative to capital punishment.
Overview by jurisdiction
|This section does not cite any sources. (September 2009)|
Summary by country
|Jurisdiction (link to details)||Life imprisonment||Minimum to serve before eligibility for requesting parole||Maximum length of sentence (under life)||Indefinite sentence (excl. preventive or psychiatric detainment)||Mandatory sentence||Possible other sentence||Under age of 18 (or 21)||Pardon, amnesty, other release||Death penalty|
|Afghanistan||Yes||Never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, violation of Islamic law||Treason, drug trafficking||Yes||By President|
|Albania||Yes, only for men above age 18||25 years||Maximum 30 years for all women||??||Murder with aggravating factor||Terrorism, war crimes||under 18: max. 20 years' imprisonment||Only in extraordinary circumstances may the convicted serving life imprisonment be released on parole|
|Andorra||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Argentina||Yes||20 years or never||None||Yes||Murder with aggravating circumstances; murder of a relative; murder of and/or by a police officer; treason||Serial rape; Gender homicide||??||By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)|
|Armenia||Yes, but only for men||20 years||Maximum 30 years for all women||No||Murder, terrorism||Collaborating with Azerbaijani armed forces, treason||??||By President|
|Austria||Yes||15 years (Imprisonment for a definite period)
or never (Imprisonment for lifetime, when clemency is rejected by President)
|None||Yes||Genocide||Murder, high level drug dealing, Nazi activism, production or distribution of chemical warfare agents to be used in armed conflict; abduction, robbery, rape and statutory rape if the crime causes the victim's death, sea and air piracy and arson if the crime causes the death of a large number of people||under 16: max. 10 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 15 years' imprisonment
18–20: max. 20 years' imprisonment
|Pardon by president|
|Australia||Yes||10 years, 20 years, 25 years, or never; individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder of police officer or other public official, murder in South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, aircraft hijacking||Treason, terrorism, drug trafficking, rape, serious child sex offences||under 18: must have minimum term set||Compassionate release by Governor of state/Administrator of territory, or Governor-General|
|Azerbaijan||Yes, but only for men aged 18–65||20 years||None||No||Murder, terrorism||Drug trafficking||No||By President|
|Belarus||Yes but only for men aged between the age of 18 and 65 (same as Russia)||25 years||15 years and 25 years (separate sentences; 15 years for men under 18 and 25 years for men at the age of 65 and over as well as women)||??||??||??||Maximum 15 years||By Courts||Yes (with the exception of women as well as men under the age of 18 and over the age of 65).|
|Belgium||Yes||15 years (no previous conviction or below 3 years), 19 years (previous conviction below 5 years), or 23 years (previous conviction 5 years or more)||None||No||None||Murder||under 12: never prosecution
12–15: max. detained till the age of 20
16–17: max. 30 years' imprisonment
|Parole by Conditional Release Commission or pardon by King|
|Bolivia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||No||Varies, depending on sentence||45 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Brazil||No (except in wartime)||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Bulgaria||Yes||20 years or never||None||Yes||None||Aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, treason, espionage, war crimes, genocide, desertion in wartime||under 14: never prosecution
14-16: Maximum 10 years
16-18: Maximum 12 years
|Cambodia||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, genocide, crimes against humanity, terrorism||Drug trafficking||Yes||By King|
|Canada||Yes||25 years minimum for 1st degree murder; 10 years minimum for 2nd degree murder (all sentences run concurrent, not consecutively)||None||Yes||High treason, 1st degree murder, kidnapping, war crimes, and crimes against humanity||Various crimes including armed robbery, extortion, and most offenses resulting in death||under 12: Never prosecuted
|Abolished in 1976.|
|Cape Verde||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Colombia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||60 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Costa Rica||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Chile||Yes||20 years, 40 years for military crimes||None||Yes||None||Treason, kidnapping with homicide or rape, rape with homicide, parricide, robbery with homicide or rape||14–15: max. 5 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 10 years' imprisonment
|People's Republic of China||Yes||10 years for non-violent crimes; never for murder, rape, kidnap, arson, explosives offences, putting hazardous materials or other organized violent crimes||None||No||No||Various||Yes||By courts||Yes|
|Croatia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Cuba||Yes||Never; only under pardon by president||None||No||Murder, Drug trafficking||??||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Cyprus||Yes||20 years||None||Yes||Murder||Terrorism, treason, drug trafficking||??||By President|
|Czech Republic||Yes||20 years general
30 or more years if part of sentence
|None||No||None||Some cases of murder, public endangerment, treason, terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, use of forbidden combat device or forbidden combat tactics, war crimes, persecution of population, misuse of international symbols||15–18: max. 10 years' imprisonment||By President|
|Denmark||Yes||12 years, or never||None||Yes||??||??||Maximum 16 years||After 12 years entitled to request to Minister of Justice; granted by King or Queen of Denmark|
|Dominican Republic||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||13–15: max. 5 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 8 years' imprisonment
|No life imprisonment sentence|
|Ecuador||No||Varies, depending on sentence||35 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|El Salvador||No (Except in wartime)||Varies, depending on sentence||75 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Egypt||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, rape, kidnapping, terrorism||Drug offenses||Yes||Pardon by president|
|Estonia||Yes||30 years||None||Yes (de facto)||None||Some cases of murder, some cases of handling drugs, crimes against humanity, genocide, acts of war against civilians, terrorism, violence against the independence of Estonia, causing an explosion using nuclear energy.||Maximum length 10 years||Pardon by president|
|Finland||Yes||12 years for court release, any time for presidential pardon||None||Yes||Murder||High treason, espionage, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, homicidal terrorist act||under 18: max. 15 years' imprisonment
under 21: minimum 10 years for parole request
|By president, Helsinki Court of Appeal|
|France||Yes||18–22 years (30 years or never for very rare cases)||None||Yes, but only if decided by court at sentencing||None||Aggravated murder, aggravated torture, aggravated treason, drug kingpin, crimes against humanity, war crimes||under 16: max. 20 years' imprisonment
|By president, with countersignature from Prime minister and ministry of justice|
|Germany||Yes, only for someone over the age of 21 (in very rare cases extremely dangerous criminals can get Life Sentences above the age of 18).||Since 1977: Decision of the judge leading the case, a minimum of 15 years without parole is required by law before parole can be granted to someone serving life in prison. In most, nearly all cases the judge sentences someone who gets life in prison to serve a minimum of 15 years. Before 1977 a life sentence meant life in prison without the possibility of parole except for a full pardon from the Federal President. This law was ruled unconstitutional by the German Federal Constitution Court.||None||No||Aggravated murder, genocide resulting in death, crimes against humanity resulting in death, war crimes against persons resulting in death||See details||Under the Age of 14: Never prosecuted. 14–18: max. 10 years imprisonment and 18–21: either a maximum of 15 years imprisonment or life in prison. A person between the ages of 18 and 21 can be tried before a Juvenile Court "Jugendgericht" (which happens in almost all cases concerning minors) or an Adult Court, which is determined by the intellectual development of the accused and the severity of the crime itself.||By Federal President or Minister-President||No (Forbidden in West Germany by the Constitution since 23 May 1949). Abolished by law in West Germany in 1953 and in East Germany in 1987.|
|Georgia||Yes||25 years||None||No||Murder||Terrorism, treason||??||Pardon by president|
|Greece||Yes||16 years, or 20 years in cases of multiple life sentences||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||Maximum 20 years||By President|
|Guatemala||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Hungary||Yes||20–40 years or never||None||Yes||Murder, after 3 violent crimes||Genocide, high treason||under 18: max. 15 years' imprisonment||By president|
|Honduras||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Hong Kong, China||Yes||Individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder, Genocide involving killing||Manslaughter, drug trafficking, treason, incitement to mutiny, piratical acts,||Must have minimum term set||By Chief Executive of Hong Kong, under the recommendation of Long Term Prison Sentences Review Board|
|Iceland||Yes||Never; only pardon by president||20 years||Yes||None||Treason, murder, kidnapping. and repeated and substantial financial crimes.||20 years||By President||No|
|India||Yes||25 years or never||None||Yes||None||Kidnapping, murder, dacoity, rape, sedition||Yes||May be pardoned or reprieved by exercise of prerogative clemency powers of the President or the Governor||Yes|
|Indonesia||Yes||Never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, kidnapping, rape, treason||??||??||By President||Yes|
|Ireland||Yes||12–30 years or never; individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder, treason, some serious injuries, etc. see details||See details||??||By President|
|Israel||Yes||Never; only under pardon by president||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||Kidnapping child with intent to murder||Yes||By president usually after 30 years|
|Italy||Yes||21 years, 26 years, or never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, mafia association, drug trafficking, human trafficking, treason||Aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, firearm trafficking||under 16: max. 20 years' imprisonment||By president|
|Jamaica||Yes||10–30 years or never; individually set by judge||None||Yes||??||??||??||??|
|Japan||Yes||10 years or never||None||Yes||Varies by prefecture (Murder)||Death sentence due to foreign aggression||Yes||By Emperor||Yes|
|Jordan||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, espionage||Drug trafficking||Yes||By King|
|Kazakhstan||Yes||25 years or never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||Maximum 20 years||By President|
|Kiribati||Yes||25 years or never||None||??||??||??||??||??|
|Kyrgyzstan||Yes||Never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President|
|Kosovo||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Lao People's Democratic Republic||Yes||Never||None||Yes||??||??||??||??|
|Latvia||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, treason, terrorism, war crimes||Drug offenses, rape, robbery, sabotage, crimes against humanity||??||By President|
|Lebanon||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, treason||Drug trafficking and manufacturing||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Lithuania||Yes||Never; only pardon by president||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President|
|Liechtenstein||Yes||15 years||None||No||None||Murder, terrorism||??||Pardon by prince|
|Luxembourg||Yes||15 years||None||Yes||Murder, treason||Terrorism||??||By Grand Duke|
|Macau, China||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years (30 in exceptional circumstances)||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Republic of Macedonia||Yes||15 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||Rape, robbery, drug offenses crimes against humanity||Yes||By President|
|Malaysia||Yes||20 years or never||None||Yes||Murder, drug offenses, serious firearms/ammunition/explosive offenses, terrorism, rape, attack on monarch, violence to parliament, treason||??||??||By Yang di-Pertuan Agong / Federal Pardon Committee||Yes|
|Malta||Yes||Never; only pardon by President||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President|
|Mexico||No (exception of Chihuahua)||Varies, depending on sentence||60 years (70 years if convicted of murder involving kidnapping)||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Republic of Moldova||Yes||35 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President|
|Monaco||Yes||15 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity||??||??||By Prince|
|Montenegro||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Morocco||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, treason||Drug trafficking and manufacturing||Yes||By King / Queen|
|The Netherlands||Yes||Never||None||Yes (de facto)||None||Attack on monarch, violence to parliament, several facts constituting an offence resulting in death of (a) person(s) (not manslaughter), manslaughter in combination with other facts, facts with intent to terrorism, treason||under 12: never prosecution
12–15: max. 12 months imprisonment
16–17: max. 24 months imprisonment
|By monarch (almost never granted)|
|Mozambique||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Nepal||Yes||20 years||None||No||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By president|
|New Zealand||Yes||Individually set by judge, but not less than 10 years||None||Yes||Treason||Murder (mandatory unless manifestly unjust)
manslaughter, certain drug related
|under 18: must have minimum term set||Sentence may be reduced or pardon granted by the Governor General (Rarely done)|
|Nicaragua||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Nigeria||Yes||Never||None||Yes||??||??||No life imprisonment sentence||??|
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea||Yes||Never||None||Yes (de facto and de jure)||Murder, espionage, treason||??||Yes||By president|
|Norway||No||Varies, depending on sentence||21 years (can be extended indefinitely if the criminal poses a danger to society at the end of served time); 30 years for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity||Yes||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence, people over age of 15 can be sentenced by normal laws or to child protection||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Pakistan||Yes||25 years||None||??||??||??||??||By President||Yes|
|Panama||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Paraguay||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Peru||Yes||35 years or never||None||Yes||Murder with aggravated circumstances, terrorism, treason, sex with under 10 year olds||Serious kidnapping, violent rape attempted murder||??||By President|
|Poland||Yes||25 years or more—individually set by judge||None||No||None||Genocide, war crimes, high treason, murder, assassination attempt of Polish president||under 18: max. 25 years' imprisonment||Pardon by president, Amnesty by act of parliament (last amnesty in 1989)|
|Portugal||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Romania||Yes||20 years||None||No; replaced by 25 years' imprisonment at age 60||Genocide during wartime, inhumane treatment during wartime||Treason and other grave crimes against the state, extremely grave murder, capitulation, desertion on the battlefield, crimes against peace or humanity||under 18: max. 20 years' imprisonment||Pardon by President, amnesty by act of Parliament|
|Republic of the Congo||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Russian Federation||Yes, but only for men between 18 and 65 years.||25 years or 30 years (25 years for murder and 30 years for murder with exceptional circumstances (for men aged 65 and over as well as women) unless multiple murders are committed for life imprisonment to be applied)||25 years or 30 years; 25 years for a single murder and also for woman, 30 years for a single murder with exceptional circumstances for men aged 65 years and over as well as women.||No||No||See details||under 18: max. 10 years' imprisonment||By President|
|Saudi Arabia||Yes||Never||None||No||Apostasy, Drug trafficking, Willful killing,||Homosexuality, witchcraft||Yes||By King||Yes|
|Serbia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Singapore||Yes||20 years||None||Yes||Kidnapping for ransom||Drug trafficking, gun crime||Prisoner detained at the President's discretion||??||Yes|
|Slovakia||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, treason||Crimes against humanity, war crimes||under 14: no imprisonment
14–17: max. 15 years' imprisonment
|Slovenia||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, treason||Terrorism, drug offenses, crimes against humanity||??||By President|
|South Africa||Yes||10, 15, or 25 years||None||No||Certain murder, rape and robbery||??||??||??|
|Republic of Korea||Yes||10 years or never||None||No||High treason, robbery (rape) with deadly outcomes, arson, murder of relative, etc.||Counterfeiting or falsification of currency||Maximum 10 years (for certain violent crimes 20 years)||By President and requires agreement of National Assembly|
|Spain||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Sweden||Yes||18 years or never, but parole hearing may be held after 10 years served, thus fixing a much later date for release on parole||None||Yes||None||Murder, kidnapping, arson, sabotage, devastation, hijacking, espionage, terror crimes, rebellion, endangering the public health by spread of contagion or poison, disloyalty when negotiating with foreign powers, dealing with anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs or chemical or nuclear weapons, unlawful nuclear explosion, treason, genocide and (the following in wartime only) mutiny, insubordination, undermining the will to fight, desertion, unauthorised capitulation, negligence of war preparations and negligence of battle duty; attempts, accessories, accomplices and incitements of all the above crimes might also be punished with life.||under 21: no life imprisonment||By the District Court of Örebro (parole hearing). Or by the Government (pardon).|
|Switzerland||Yes||10 years or 15 years; individually set by judge||None||Yes||None||Aggravated murder, aggravated hostage-taking, genocide, endangering the independence of the country||under 15: no imprisonment
15–17: max. 4 years' imprisonment
|By Federal Assembly (Parliament)|
|Suriname||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)||Yes||25 years||None||Third violent crime||Aggravated murder, hard drug trafficking||Many violent crimes causing death, etc.||Banned by Criminal Code||By President|
|Tajikistan||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism||Treason||Yes||By President|
|Thailand||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, drug trafficking and manufacturing||Kidnapping, sex offenses||Yes||By King|
|Tunisia||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, treason, hijacking, espionage, attempting to overthrow the government||Drug trafficking||Yes||By President|
|Turkey||Yes||Life imprisonment: 24 years (30 if organized crime), Multiple life imprisonments: 30 years (34 if organized crime), Aggravated life imprisonment: 30 years (36 if organized crime), Multiple aggravated life imprisonments: 36 years (40 if organized crime), or never (aggravated life imprisonment for terrorism)||None||Yes||Murder with special cirucumstances, treason, terrorism||Sexual offences, military and political crimes||Maximum 24 years||By President in case of permanent illness, rehabilitation, disability or decrepitude|
|Turkmenistan||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism||Treason||Yes||By President|
|United Kingdom ( England and Wales)||Yes||Individually set by judge (maximum Whole life tariff)||None||Yes||Murder, second serious violent or sexual crime||All common law offences, rape, inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, treason, aggravated burglary, criminal damage with intent to endanger life, hijacking, destroying or endangering safety of an aircraft, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of a firearm with criminal intent, use of a firearm to resist arrest, terrorism, Importing or supplying Class A controlled drug||10-11: Rarely imprisoned, aggravated cases: 6–12 years, maximum: Life (usually no more than 15 years). 12-17: Starting point: 12 years, aggravated cases: 15 years, maximum: Life (usually no more than 25 years).
18-20: Starting point 15 years, aggravated cases: 20-25, maximum: Life (usually no more than 30 years).
21+: Starting point 15 years, aggravated cases: 20–45 years, maximum: Whole Life Order (no chance of parole). NOTE: All offenders at least aged under 21 have to be set a release or parole date and must have some chance of parole, unless still classed as a danger risk to the public. A Whole Life Order sentence is usually only used in very aggravating cases, such as murder of a police or prison officer, murder of a child, murder of multiple people or murder for sexual or sadistic gain. Sentencing years based on many cases during sentencing.
|Compassionate release and pardon by Secretary of State for Justice; amnesty by Royal decree alone (by means of the Royal prerogative of mercy) or with Act of Parliament in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty (last amnesty in 1747).|
|United Kingdom: Scotland||Yes||Individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder||??||No whole life tariff||Compassionate release by Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Scottish Government); amnesty by royal decree (by means of the Royal prerogative of mercy) alone or with act of parliament (in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty).|
|United Kingdom: Northern Ireland||Yes||Individually set by judge||None||No||Murder, Rape||Robbery||??||General release through a referendum based agreement in 1998 (became applicable in 3 cases i, ii, iii). The Royal prerogative of mercy or an Act of Parliament (in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty) can be used to grant amnesty like the rest of the UK.|
|Ukraine||Yes||Never; only pardon by President||None||No||Murder with aggravating circumstances||??||Maximum 15 years||By President|
|United States of America||Yes||15 years minimum to infinite, or never (depending on crime and state)||None||Yes||Varies by state||Varies by state||Yes (de jure)||By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)||Yes (depending on state)|
|Uruguay||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Uzbekistan||Yes, only for men aged between 18 and 60 years||25 years or never||30 years for women and men over the age of 60||No||None||Aggravated murder, terrorism||Maximum 10 years||By President|
|Vatican City||No||Varies, depending on sentence||35 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence (for serious offenses, the Vatican often works with Italian authorities; certain offenses are pardonable or reducible by the Pope and/or ecclesiastical or civil Vatican courts)|
|Venezuela||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence|
|Vietnam||Yes||Never||None||Yes (de jure)||??||??||under 16: max. 14 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 18 years' imprisonment
- Incapacitation (penology)
- Indefinite imprisonment
- List of prison deaths
- Use of capital punishment by country
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- sec. 7(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes
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- art. 112 Swiss Criminal Code
- art. 185 Swiss Criminal Code
- art. 264 Swiss Criminal Code
- art. 266 Swiss Criminal Code
- (French)art. 25 Juvenile Criminal Code
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