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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 15, 2021 11:51 AM
From: Representative Jason Dawkins
To: All House members
Subject: Parole Eligibility Expansion for Life Sentences (HB135 from 2019-2020)
All life sentences in Pennsylvania are imposed without the possibility of parole. Regardless of how much an individual may have reformed themselves over time, the very purpose of a prison sentence, or how elderly or ill they have grown. They must spend the rest of their life incarcerated. In fact, many people serving a life sentence were convicted as an accomplice or co-conspirator to murder, regardless of their actual involvement in the crime. Survivors of domestic violence who were sentenced before our state passed a “battered spouse defense,” who would not be serving a life sentence today, will spend the rest of their lives behind bars due to sentencing laws from before the 1980’s.

Individuals who pose no risk to society should be allowed an opportunity for parole. To that end, I will be reintroducing legislation that would create a chance for those individuals after 25 or 35 years, dependent upon their conviction, and would extend retroactively to anyone currently serving an eligible sentence. These individuals would still go before the Board of Probation and Parole, and would be granted parole only if they deserve it and do not present a safety risk to the public. In addition, no one convicted of murdering a law enforcement officer would be eligible for parole. With this law, we would also create an Office of Re-Entry Programs to assist those who are released under these new eligibility standards.

Pennsylvanians who have served their time deserve the right to a parole hearing. Please join me in this effort to reduce the cost of corrections throughout our state, and give worthy Pennsylvanians the opportunity to re-join society.

Introduced as HB135