Leo Dunn, Chairman of Pennsylvania’s Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP) has been touring the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ (PDOC) prisons to discuss parole review hearings for child lifer prisoners.
On January 9, 2017, Chairman Dunn held a child lifers group meeting with 20 child lifers at SCI-Rockview, where he spent 2.5 hours addressing parole review concerns of child lifers.
Chairman Dunn explained that child lifers will be reviewed the same as adult offenders convicted of 3rd degree murder; that a majority parole member vote is needed for parole approval; that the Parole Board will determine granting parole to child lifers who they believe are ready to return to society; and that the Parole Board are looking to parole child lifers who have good re-entry plans and home plans.
Chairman Dunn’s decision was followed by a question and answer period, where child lifers asked the million-dollar question of whether the Parole Board will apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama’s mitigation standard of review at child lifers’ parole hearings [and] whether special parole protections for child lifers will be adopted by the Parole Board as other states have done?
Chairman Dunn replied, “We are not going to treat child lifers as special in regards to parole. We are treating child lifers the same as everyone else that came before us for parole review. We are treating child lifers as we treat persons who have been convicted of 3rd degree murder because we have been paroling 3rd degree murder prisoners for decades. So no! We will not be providing special parole protection for child lifers.”
Chairman Dunn emphasized he is only concerned about the here-and-now of paroling child lifers and appeared to be oblivious to the Supreme Court’s ruling that child offenders must be treated differently than adult offenders as the two are not the same.
Moreover, Chairman Dunn refused to discuss how historically, politics have influenced the Parole Board to systematically deny parole release to deserving persons convicted of violent crimes, simply due to violent crime having been sensationalized in the media.
Hopefully, the Pennsylvania Parole Board will perhaps be part of the solution by following other states that have provided special parole protections to child homicide offenders, and not be part of the problem by refusing to acknowledge the need for special parole protections and begin reform.
From the Belly of the Beast, at Prison Radio, I am Shakaboona.