In a House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda posted May 25,2016 to all House members, Representative Jason Dawkins announced he will be introducing a bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that will abolish Life-Without-Parole (LWOP) imprisonment in Pennsylvania and extend parole eligibility to those sentenced to Life imprisonment.
On June 9, 2016, State Representatives Dawkins, Acosta, and V. Brown introduced House Bill (HB) 2135, which calls on the General Assembly to amend the 18 Pa. C. S. 1102.1 Murder sentencing law for Child Offenders, 42 Pa.C.S. 9714(a)(2) Sentences for second and subsequent offenses law, and 61 Pa.C.S. 6137(a)(1)(3) Parole power law.
HB 2135 simply removes the LWOP language from the 1102.1, while failing to correct the unconstitutionality of the entire 1102.1 law itself.
The 1102.1 is unconstitutional to Child Offenders sentenced under its guidelines, because it’s contrary to the requirements in Miller vs. Alabama in that: (1) it is a mandatory sentencing scheme based solely upon a child offenders’ “age” while negating other mitigating factors; (2) it divests the Trial court of any discretion to impose a lesser sentence than the mandatory sentencing scheme; (3) it is not an “Individualized” sentence determined by a Jury (and not by the Court, i.e. a Judge); (4) it requires Child Offenders over the age 15 to be sentenced to a greater mandatory minimum sentence than those under age 15 on the basis of “age”; (5) it sentences Child Offenders to a greater minimum sentence of 25-30-35 years-to-Life sentences than the national consensus of minimum-to-Life given to adult offenders; and (6) Life-With-Parole and LWOP sentences are both unconstitutional for Child Offenders.
Child Offenders sentenced under 1102.1 should be arguing the above-said issues to constitutionally challenge their sentences on their direct appeal review.
HB 2135 removes the LWOP language from 9714(a)(2) and 6137(a)(1)(3) as well. Furthermore, HB2135 amends 6137 to give power to the parole board to afford prisoners sentenced to Life imprisonment parole eligibility only after the expiration of the minimum term of imprisonment fixed by the court [or] after serving 15 years of imprisonment. [If] enacted into law, HB 2135 would have retroactive effect to ALL Life imprisoned prisoners.
HB 2135 does not amend the 18 Pa.C.S. 1102 Murder law for First and Second degree murder, because sentences for those degrees of murder already require a “Life imprisonment” term. Therefore, prisoners sentenced to Life imprisonment in accordance to the 1102 Murder law, would be parole eligibile under the amended 6137 Parole law were it to be enacted into law.
Although Representative Dawkin’s HB 2135 does not seek to outright abolish Life-With-Parole and LWOP sentences for Child Offenders in its amendment 1102.1, the Bill does abolish LWOP (Death-By-Incarceration) sentencing and would establish Parole Eligibility for ALL Lifers after serving 15 years of imprisonment.
HB 2135 should receive the full support of Families of Lifer Prisoners and Organizations seeking to end LWOP.
Victory is near! Lifers and their Families must seize the time by working ever harder to advance our campaign to end LWOP.
From the Belly of the Beast, at Prison Radio, I am Shakaboona. Thank you for listening.