At the State Capitol, a rally to give some Pennsylvania prisoners a second chance. A bill in the Senate would allow people sentenced to life in prison to be considered for parole after 15 years.
In Pennsylvania, you receive mandatory life without parole if convicted of first or second-degree murder, even if you're not the one convicted of pulling the trigger. Senate Bill 942 looks to give those prisoners a chance at redemption.
Elizabeth Geyer tells us, "My boyfriend is destined to die in prison for something that he didn't do". She is referring to George Trudel, who was at the scene of a 1986 murder. He's serving life without parole. The man who was convicted of the actual murder was released decades ago.
She says, "They get life, and they're just tossed away like they don't matter, they're not human. They do matter. They matter to me."
Senator Sharif Street says, "Twelve percent of the people that do life without parole never took a life". Which is why he has introduced Senate Bill 942 to give prisoners serving life sentences a chance at parole after 15 years. He says, "Redemption should be available for all."
Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack says, "We're not just saying we're opening the prison doors. We're saying that people can change."
Supporters say the bill does not create a right to parole and so dangerous criminals will remain behind bars. Pennsylvania currently has the second highest number of people serving life without parole in the country, including second highest amount of elderly prisoners.
Street says, "And we... spend millions of dollars incarcerating people who are the least likely to re-offend."
If passed, the bill would extend parole eligibility retroactively giving Elizabeth Geyer hope for her boyfriend. And, she says, "I am not going to stop fighting until I bring him home".
Senate Bill 942 has been in the Senate Judiciary Committee since October.
--Matt Heckel, JET 24 Action News
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