New Campaign Demands An End to Life Without Parole

Press Contact: 

Hakim Ali 215-667-0543

For Immediate Release: June 2, 2015

PHILADELPHIA, PA: On June 6th, the newly-formed Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI) will launch its campaign seeking to abolish life without parole sentences in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania prisons hold over 5000 people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. “In PA, a life sentence means your natural life--it is a sentence that condemns you to die in prison--which is why I and many other people call it Death By Incarceration,” said Diane Williams-Brantley, member of CADBI and Fight for Lifers.

Decarcerate PA, the Human Rights Coalition, Fight For Lifers, Right to Redemption (a group of people sentenced to life without parole sentences at State Correctional Institute Graterford), and other activists inside and outside of prison began forming CADBI over a year ago. The event on June 6th will publicly launch the campaign with art, poetry, and discussion.

“We have three core legislative demands,” said member of CADBI and Decarcerate PA Emily Abendroth, “parole eligibility for everyone after 25 years, presumptive parole—which means that the burden will be on the state to prove someone should not be paroled, and a maximum sentencing law to prevent the Commonwealth from incarcerating people indefinitely.”

Florida is the only state that holds more people in prison for life without parole than Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is one of only six states that denies parole to all lifers. As of 2009, 9.4% of the prison population was serving life sentences. In contrast, there are 15 states where less than 1% of people in prison are serving life without parole.

“The lifetime confinement of people who are proven by study after study to pose little to no threat to public safety is not only a cancelation of human potential but a huge waste of scarce tax dollars.” said Felix Rosado, member of CADBI and Right to Redemption.

Life without parole is unconstitutional in 25 countries. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without parole. Of the 2500 people nationally serving juvenile life without parole sentences, Pennsylvania has over 500, more than any other state. “I believe that sentencing someone to die in prison, with no hope of redemption, is a human rights violation,” said Robert Saleem Holbrook, member of CADBI and a Philadelphian who was sentenced to life without parole when he was a child.

The Coalition will spend the next year focusing on outreach and educating people about life without parole sentences. Patricia Vickers, member of CADBI and Human Rights Coalition said, “we know that it will take a mass movement to abolish Death By Incarceration. We are building that movement.”

The campaign launch will be held on Saturday, June 6th at Vineyard Community Church (123 S. 51st Street, Philadelphia, PA) from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM.