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In jails across America, individuals are serving lengthy jail sentences over minor, nonviolent offenses because of mandatory sentencing laws. A study finds that thousands will die behind bars despite many of that number being first-time offenders without a history of violence.

The ACLU conducted the study, titled, A Living Death: Sentenced To Die Behind Bars For What? and it highlights a number of cases ranging from petty theft to folks hiding drugs in their home.

One woman has served 22 years of jail for carrying a jealous ex-boyfriend’s coke and cash, forcing her to be a mule to ship his wares between Texas and Oklahoma. Although she’s asked for leniency, she is still behind bars.

Another man was was slapped with a life sentence for riding around in a truck that had stolen tools inside of it. Because of a prior burglary conviction when he was 17, the man, now 22, was told by the judge that even though the time was excessive they had to charge him with the mandatory sentence.

The study finds that of 3, 278 serving life without parole, 65 percent of that number are Black. To mark the racial disparity of the group studied, 18 percent are white with 16 percent being Latino. Although Blacks just make up 13 percent of the population, nearly 45 percent of Blacks are jailed in federal and state prisons.

The numbers have other staggering effects as well, such as the heavy burden on taxpayers. The ACLU claims that federal and state taxpayers are will spend $1.8 billion to keep the nonviolent offenders jailed over the the time allotted if more lenient terms aren’t applied.

To read about the study in full, click here.

Photo:  ACLU