PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL 835, PRINTER’S NO. 1029, WHICH WOULD ESTABLISH PAROLE FOR INCARCERATED INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE AGED OR SUFFERING FROM DEBILITATING OR TERMINAL ILLNESSES
WHEREAS, it is the mission of the Philadelphia Bar Association to serve the profession and the public by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law, and in so doing, the Association strives to foster understanding of, involvement in and access to the justice system; and
WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association recognizes the importance of humane treatment of incarcerated individuals, the right of victims to be included in the legal process, and maintenance of public safety; and
WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections reports that since 2000, the percentage of incarcerated individuals at state correctional institutions who are over 50 years old has more than doubled to 23.3% of the incarcerated population1; and
WHEREAS, the cost of medical care for elderly inmates is high, with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania spending $3.2 million per month on prescription drugs for inmates over 50 and more than 400 inmates in long term care units providing skilled and personal care at a cost of nearly $500 per inmate per day;2 and
WHEREAS, the cost of medical care for all incarcerated individuals continues to rise, with the General Assembly appropriating $331,486,000 to the Department of Corrections for medical care in the 2021-22 Budget;3 and
WHEREAS, on August 11, 2021 Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029 was introduced in the Senate of Pennsylvania and referred to the Senate Judiciary committee; and
WHEREAS, Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029, provides that the Pennsylvania Parole Board may grant parole to an incarcerated individual, who has a terminal illness, or a chronic and debilitating physical or medical condition or disease, or a serious functional or cognitive impairment, or deteriorating physical or mental health due to the aging process; and
WHEREAS, Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029 also provides that the Pennsylvania Parole Board may grant parole to an incarcerated individual who is at least 55 years of age and has served the lesser of 25 years in prison or one-half of the minimum term imposed for the offense for which the incarcerated individual is currently imprisoned; and
WHEREAS, to protect the public, Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029 provides that the Pennsylvania Parole Board would have to determine that the incarcerated individual would not presently pose a danger to others or the general public if released; and
WHEREAS, to give victims of crime a voice in the process, Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029 provides that the Office of Victim Advocate and any registered victim of the incarcerated individual's offense, shall be notified of the filing of a petition for medical parole, and shall have the opportunity to respond in writing to the petition; and
WHEREAS, Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029 provides that, if the petition is denied, the incarcerated individual may file a state habeas corpus petition challenging the denial; and
WHEREAS, Senate Bill 835 Printers Number 1029 provides that the incarcerated individual shall have the right to assistance of counsel, including the appointment of counsel if the incarcerated individual is indigent, for proceedings in front of the Pennsylvania Parole Board and in any state habeas petition filed pursuant to the denial of the petition for parole.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports Senate Bill 835, Printers Number 1029 and any similar legislation which provides for parole for incarcerated individuals with a substantially diminished ability to function in a correctional institution due to a terminal illness, or a chronic and debilitating physical or medical condition or disease, or a serious functional or cognitive impairment, or deteriorating physical or mental health due to the aging process; or to an incarcerated individual who is at least 55 years of age and has served a substantial portion of their sentence and is determined by the Board of Parole not presently to pose a danger to others or the general public if released;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee(s) to communicate the position of this Association to the members of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Pennsylvania, the legal community, the media and the public, and to take such other action in furtherance of this resolution as may be deemed necessary.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Adopted: October 28, 2021
1 2020-21 Budget Testimony, PA Dept. of Corrections, Secretary John A. Wetzel, p.12.
2 Id at pp. 12-13.
3 Act of Jun. 30, 2021, P.L. , No. 1A, Section 212.