The sentence of “life without parole” (LWOP) has long been a topic of conversation in the State of Pennsylvania. Reports indicate that almost 5,400 people are currently serving lifelong prison sentences in PA with no hope of applying for release on parole, and many people refer to this as “the other death sentence” because such inmates will likely die in prison. With nearly 10 percent of prisoners serving such life sentences, Pennsylvania has the second-largest “lifer” prison population in the United States and is one of just six states that still implements a LWOP sentence.

This sentence can apply to different types of criminal cases, including first or second-degree murder, murder of a police officer, or murder of an unborn child. Additionally, a person may receive a life without parole sentence for multiple felony convictions.

The LWOP sentence has garnered much criticism, which includes:

  • The taxpayer cost of supporting lifetime prisoners is extensive and unnecessary.
  • LWOP sentences seem to be applied disproportionately to minorities, as more than 73 percent of lifers are of African American or Hispanic descent.

Pennsylvania has a large number of elderly prisoners, including many who are serving life sentences without parole.

Having an elderly prison population is especially costly for Pennsylvania residents. It costs substantially more to fund the incarceration of elderly people, as they require more specialized medical treatment and care.

The Pennsylvania Senate is currently reviewing a bill – Bill 942 – that seeks to end life without parole in The Keystone State. If passed, the proposed law would allow offenders to be eligible to apply for parole after 15 years of incarceration. By releasing more people on parole, the state can save taxpayer dollars and focus on the rehabilitative purposes of imprisonment instead of incarcerating people longer than necessary for public safety.

The proposed law does not guarantee that everyone will be granted parole, however. Offenders will still need to complete the application process and plead their cases before the state Board of Probation and Parole, which will make a decision based on all of the circumstances at hand. However, if someone is truly rehabilitated and does not pose a threat, this could prevent them from suffering “death by incarceration.” We will keep watch to see how this bill progresses through the state legislature over the coming months.

A West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Here to Help

Many criminal convictions result in a lengthy term of imprisonment or even life in prison. If you are arrested, you should immediately contact a skilled criminal defense attorney who fully understands the ever-changing laws and criminal procedures in Pennsylvania. The Skinner Law Firm handles many types of criminal cases, so please call 610-436-1410 or fill out our online contact form to learn more.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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