That's the title of law professor emerita Vivian Berger's commentary for National Law Journal. It's subtitled, "Used against nonviolent offenders, the punishment can be worse than death."
Here's the beginning:
The American Civil Liberties Union recently released a report aptly titled "A Living Death." It deals with the phenomenon of life sentencing without possibility of parole. Known as "LWOP," it might as aptly be called "LWOH," for life without hope.
Originally intended as an alternative to capital punishment, life without parole has morphed into a penalty imposed not just for murder and other dangerous felonies but also for nonviolent offenses. Focusing on this gross misuse of a sentence that some deem worse than death, the ACLU's exposé, published in November 2013, persuasively argues that life without parole must be categorically abolished in such cases — in which its infliction, lacking all rational justification, amounts to retributivism gone rogue.
The effects of such a sentence are stark. The hopelessness bred by an endless term of incarceration predictably leads to despair, depression, chronic anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Its victims, according to the ACLU report, often describe it in terms of dying, not living: "a slow death"; "a living death"; "akin to being dead, without the one benefit of not having to suffer anymore."
You can jump to the ACLU report, A Living Death: Sentenced to Die Behind Bars for What?