Death by Incarceration

Pennsylvania law dictates mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole for people sentenced under charges of first-degree murder or second-degree murder (aka “felony murder”). These sentences are, in effect, death by incarceration.

There is no allowance for the circumstances of the individual’s actions in determining the sentencing if convicted of these charges. There is no leeway to adjust the sentence based on whether or not a person actually took a life, or intended to take a life; or due to defendants’ detrimental lived experiences such as being abused or neglected; or the youthfulness of defendants (most people sentenced to DBI are under 25 at the time.)

The potential to change, grow, and transform into a person firmly committed to repairing harm does not matter. The law assumes people do not change, and anyone deemed a danger to society will remain so for the rest of their lives. Yet our communities are home to people proving the opposite every day.

More than 1 in 10 people serving death by incarceration sentences in the U.S. are in Pennsylvania prisons, and PA has more people serving DBI than any other state except Florida, which has a much larger population. Furthermore, Black Pennsylvanians are serving death by incarceration sentences at a rate more than 18 times higher than that of White Pennsylvanians.

ALC has a robust, multi-pronged approach to ending death by incarceration in Pennsylvania that includes litigation, organizing, strategic communications, and legislative lobbying.

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