Voices from the Inside Out: End life without parole

July 20, 2022

From the July-August 2022 issue of News & Letters

My name is Sam Lint. I am a Lifer here in South Dakota who has been working for years to bring change to myself, my prison, and my state. News & Letters has been a wonderful source of information during our

On Aug. 6, 2018, activists opposed to the sentence of Life Without a Possibility of Parole (LWOP) rallied on the capital steps in Sacramento, Calif. Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

struggle. Please keep them coming. I share them with our entire Lifers group.


We started our quest in September 2017 with a few goals focused on improving our overall living conditions. A main goal is changing our state’s lifer law. See, South Dakota is one of only two states that have no option for parole if you have a life sentence. We are also one of the only two states that will give a life sentence for manslaughter. “Life” is natural life here, and they don’t mind giving it out.

Our group started writing our state legislature—105 members, 90% of them Republican—in 2017, and by 2019 we had multiple Lifers with legislators on our visiting lists and willing to come in and speak to our entire Lifers group. In September 2019 we had our first meeting, and we got a verbal commitment from a Republican state senator that he would take up our cause.

January 2020 came and so did SB 138. For those doing life on second degree murder, this bill would have given them a chance at parole after 40 years, and those doing life on manslaughter would have a chance after 30 years. SB 138 did not make it out of committee.

In 2021, the senator took a different approach and filed SB 146, which would have given any Lifer who committed their crime when aged 25 or younger a chance at parole when they reach 50 years of age. SB 146 passed unanimously out of committee and then passed the Senate 18-17. It then went to the House where it failed to pass committee.


I feel the need to write to let my incarcerated brothers and sisters know that success is within reach even in the face of serious, systemic opposition. Trust that it was not easy for us to get ourselves to the point where we felt it was even worth trying to get politicians to help us, but you have to do it.

Organize, gather facts, so that everyone is on the same page. Start collecting small wins. Develop your mind so that you’re up to the task. Go about it the right way whenever you can, and stay true to the cause whenever you can’t. No matter what you do, never give up.

—Sam Lint

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