Letter from Earl Harris

I received your letter a few weeks ago and I want to thank you for your support.  I understand that your organization is trying to get legislation pushed through the legislative branch of government that would extend parole to lifers.  I commend you and your organization for fighting to end life sentences.  A few years ago California released nearly 1,400 lifers on parole.  Ernest Morgan, a San Francisco man convicted of the shotgun slaying of his 14-year-old stepsister burglarizing the family home was released on parole in 2011 by governor Brown after serving 24 years in prison.  Here you have a man who murdered his sister with a shotgun but yet he was paroled from a life sentence.  What is the difference from a convicted murder in California and a convicted murderer here in Pennsylvania?

I know people in Pennsylvania prisons who’s serving life because they was present at the scene of a robbery gone bad, these individuals didn’t kill the victim, they just agreed to commit a felony and because of that felony, these individuals received a life sentence.  Anders Behring Breivik is a far-right terrorist and the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks.  On July 22, 2011, he killed eight people by setting off a van bomb amid the government quarter Regjeringskvartalet in Oslo, then shot dead 69 participants of a workers’ youth league.  In 2012, he was convicted of mass murder, causing a fatal explosion, and terrorism.  On August 24, 2012, the Oslo district court sentenced him to 21 years in prison, in a form of preventive detention that required a minimum of 10 years incarceration and the possibility of an extension of that incarceration for as long as he is deemed a danger to society.  This man was convicted of killing 77 human beings and his maximum sentence is just 21 years.  I would like to reiterate something that I said previously, we have men and women here in Pennsylvania who didn’t kill another human being but yet we’re serving life in prison without parole, how is this even possible when we pride ourselves on freedom, justice and liberty?

When it comes to freedom, justice and liberty America is real symbolic, America has a statue of liberty, a liberty bell and other artifacts that symbolizes freedom, justice and liberty but in reality freedom, justice and liberty really doesn’t exists for many men and women incarcerated here in Pennsylvania.  Just recently on July 4, 2016, American celebrated her 240th birthday, a friend of mine asked me was I going to celebrate the fourth of July, I told my friend with a sad sense of the disparity between us that I was not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary.  Freedom was born in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, but it died for me on September 25, 1992, when I was sentenced to die in prison by a court that’s in the city where freedom was born.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has a saying that goes like this: “in order to get around the time-bar in Pennsylvania a prisoner must demonstrate a miscarriage of justice that no civilized society would tolerate.”  I find this saying to be ludicrous because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has proven that she’s not a civilized society because she continues to sentence people to death by incarceration with no chance for parole.  Norway is a civilized society because Mr. Breivik was sentenced to 21 years for murdering 77 human beings.  California seems to be a civilized society because she paroled 1,400 lifers dating back to 2010, what is the commonwealth of Pennsylvania doing to stop this death by incarceration?

I know why the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania don’t want to end death by incarceration.  The Commonwealth know for a fact that the recidivism rate for lifers who are paroled is less than 1%, back in 2010 five lifers were released on parole by governor Rendell and none of them has been back in prison for a violation.  The people in Harrisburg know that statistics don’t lie when it comes to the recidivism rate for lifers but for money purposes Harrisburg refuses to end death by incarceration because they know from statistics that lifers don’t re-offend, the people in Harrisburg refused to recognize the recidivism rate for lifers, this could be interpreted one way and one way only: “if Harrisburg would be forced to close prisons, which means that a lot of corrections officers would be out of work and the corrections union wouldn’t appreciate legislation to end death by incarceration.

Death by incarceration isn’t about punishment, rehabilitation or is about the victim, it’s about federal reserve notes and job security.  In reality, we don’t live in a democracy, we live in a plutocracy.

I would be remiss if I didn’t conclude this letter with these last words: “there is not a nation on earth guilt of practices of death by incarceration than the American government at this very hour.  Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies, despotisms, democracy’s, of the world, travel throughout south American, Asian, the middle east, Africa, search out every justice system, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of death by incarceration of this nation and you will say with me that for, revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy America reigns with rival when it comes to death by incarceration.”  Whether we turn to the Declaration of the past or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.  America is false to the past, false to the present, and if she continue this death by incarceration, then she’ll solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.