The Facts of Life Without Parole in Pennsylvania

By James Smith, CK3029

  • There are roughly 5,400 inmates serving life without parole (LWOP) in Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvania is second in the nation (next to Florida) for the number of inmates serving LWOP.
  • Those serving LWOP make up approximately one-10th of the prison population in Pennsylvania.
  • Taxpayers dish our roughly $870,000 to incarcerate a lifer over their lifetime (not including the medical costs an aging lifer my produce).
  • Pennsylvania tops the nation of juveniles who are sentenced to LWOP.
  • 3,587 of those serving LWOP are convicted of first-degree murder.
  • 1,217 are serving LWOP who have been convicted of second-degree murder.
  • 542 are serving LWOP for a degree of murder not specified.
  • On the average, each year 133 new inmates enter the state's prison system who have been sentenced to LWOP.
  • On the average, 28 lifers die behind bars each year.
  • On the average, each year 10 lifers either win their appeals or are shifted to medical facilities under a compassionate release program.
  • The average lifer spends 23.4 years in prison before expiring.
  • On the average, if Pennsylvania would begin releasing lifers after serving 20 years, it would save the state's taxpayers $126,706 per inmate released.
  • Only 13 states besides Pennsylvania sentence those convicted of first-degree murder to LWOP.
  • Only 9 states (Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming) sentence those convicted to second-degree murder to LWOP.
  • Most states only sentence those to LWOP for the most egregious crimes.
  • Pennsylvania spends $102.10 a day for each inmate it holds.
  • The longest serving lifer in Pennsylvania is 78 years old, was sentenced in 1953 at the age of 15, and has spent 62 years in prison at the cost of $2.31 million.

Source: Riley Yates, "Those spending life in jail are taxing Pennsylvania prison system," The (Allentown) Morning Call, Nov. 2015