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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: September 12, 2017 04:38 PM
From: Senator Sharif Street
To: All Senate members
Subject: Parole Eligibility for Life Sentences
In the near future, I will introduce legislation that would make it possible for those sentenced to life imprisonment to eventually have an opportunity for parole in Pennsylvania.

All life sentences in Pennsylvania are imposed without the possibility of parole. This means that individuals sentenced to life imprisonment may not be considered for parole, no matter how much they have reformed themselves and no matter how unlikely they are to re-offend. Those sentenced to life without parole in Pennsylvania also have no chance at release when they grow so ill or elderly they pose little to no risk to the public. Not only does this represent an injustice to an individual who is a model inmate despite having no chance at life outside of prison, but it also creates an avoidable expense for the corrections system – and the taxpayers who fund it – by incarcerating individuals longer than necessary.

This legislation, a companion bill to HB 135 introduced by State Representative Jason Dawkins, permits an individual sentenced to life imprisonment under the laws of this Commonwealth to be considered for parole after spending at least 15 years in prison. It also extends parole eligibility retroactively to those sentenced prior to the effective date of the legislation. The bill creates no right to parole, so it will not allow our most dangerous inmates to go free. The Commonwealth’s Board of Probation and Parole will continue to responsibly reject requests for parole from those who do not deserve it, or who present too great a safety risk to the public.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation so that we may give the Board of Probation and Parole discretion to consider the circumstances of each inmate serving a life sentence. If you have questions about this legislation, please contact my Policy Director, Micah Mahjoubian at mmahjoubian@pasenate.com.

Introduced as SB942