Expand the Commutation System in Pennsylvania
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In Pennsylvania, a life sentence means life-- without the possibility of parole. Commutation is defined as a change of a sentence or punishment to one that is less severe; in this case, to release lifers on lifetime parole. Between 1971 and 1995, PA Governors commuted 285 life sentences. Between 1995 and 2016, PA Governors commuted ONLY 8 life sentences.
It costs the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania $3,602,743 per person to house a lifer. As the prison population more than doubled from 1990 to 2015, the Department of Corrections Budget has skyrocketed to over 2.2 billion dollars a year.
In 2015, 1200 lifers were 55 or more years old and had served at least 25 years of prison time. Age has a strong negative correlation with recidivism. Senior age lifers who have been commuted have about a 1% recidivism rate.
Currently, there is no meaningful release mechanism for a meritorious lifer. Expanding the existing commutation system would give rehabilitated lifers a chance at parole, giving them hope and an opportunity to give back to the community. Even compassionate release is a difficult process in Pennsylvania.
This educational campaign does not seek to challenge the need for, or the propriety of, a life sentence without the opportunity for parole. We recognize that in a civil society public safety is imperative and a life-term of incarceration for some convicted felons serves a legitimate purpose.
The organization's first documentary, "A Dignified Death", focuses the release of terminally or seriously ill persons from Pennsylvania state prisons. "Second Looks: Second Chances", a new documentary being released in August 2017, takes a closer look at the state's commutation system and how its expanded use can benefit the tax payers of Pennsylvania.
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