PRESS RELEASE: Protesters tell District Attorney, “Have a Heart”

Press Contact: 

Hakim Ali, 267-217-3372

August 8, 2016

Attn: News Desk
For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Hakim Ali, 215-667-0543

Protesters tell District Attorney, “Have a Heart”:

Demand Release for Children Sentenced to Die in Prison

PHILADELPHIA, PA  -- On August 9th at 12:00 PM, a coalition of organizations and community members will rally at the District Attorney’s office (3 South Penn Square) to demand that District Attorney Seth WIlliams show compassion for children sentenced to die in prison.

Recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have affirmed that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for people sentenced as children. Pennsylvania has more children serving mandatory life without parole (aka “death by incarceration”) sentences than any other state in the country. Almost three hundred of these men and women are from Philadelphia. The Supreme Court ruling requires that all of these individuals receive resentencing hearings. But advocates and family members believe DA Seth Williams is obstructing a fair and just resentencing process.

“Seth Williams is in charge of requesting new sentences for the hundreds of Philadelphians condemned as children to die behind bars,” said Kris Henderson, an attorney with Amistad Law Project and member of the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI). “Instead of honoring the spirit of the Supreme Court rulings and allowing second chances, he is working to keep people’s loved ones in prison for most, or all, of their adult lives.”

Although Williams announced in June that he would not seek life without parole at the resentencing hearings, his office is pushing plea deals for sentences of thirty-five years to life. CADBI is calling on Williams, and District Attorneys across the state, to re-sentence people under the 3rd degree murder statute, which would allow for sentences up to 20 to 40 years, and for which life imprisonment would no longer be an option. “Under Williams’s plan, people sentenced to death by incarceration as children will not have a chance to leave prison until they are elders, and may never go home at all,” said CADBI member Layne Mullett. “We’re here to say that this is unacceptable.”

The protesters will call on Williams to “have a heart,” and will be delivering a large paper mache “Have a Heart” award to Williams’ office. They will also be highlighting the difference between the D.A.’s words and his actions. They note that Williams did not even stop pursuing death by incarceration at resentencing hearings -- or sentencing hearings for young people with new convictions -- until public pressure built for him to stop. “It’s time to bring our loved ones home,” said Patricia Vickers of CADBI and the Human Rights Coalition. “We believe all people are capable of redemption and transformation. Seth Williams said he wanted to ‘give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel.’ We’re here to demand he keep that promise.”  

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The Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration works to end death by incarceration (aka “life without parole”) sentences in Pennsylvania. The coalition’s anchoring organizations include Decarcerate PA, Fight for Lifers, The Human Rights Coalition, and Right to Redemption. Learn more at http://decarceratepa.info/CADBI