Incarceration Nation

Cost-Benefit of Senate Bill 942

A Guest Editorial By Shakaboona

On November 11, 2019, Pennsylvania State Senator Sharif Street introduced Senate Bill 942 to help us finally get parole eligibility for our loved ones serving Death-By-Incarceration (DBI) or Life Without Parole (LWOP) in Pennsylvania, a struggle going on for about 60 years in this state. From the 1970s until today, we can guesstimate that thousands, if not more, of Lifer men and women in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections have died slow, agonizing, lonely deaths in prison from serving DBI sentences. This must end. People deserve second chances.

Placing my emotions aside, and looking at SB 942 from a practical standpoint, SB 942 is a bill we can get behind to support its passage. And with good reason, here is why:

  • For the first time in Pennsylvania history there will be “Parole Eligibility” for incarcerated men and women condemned to death through LWOP sentencing schemes.
  • A couple of thousand Lifer prisoners can immediately get free, and hundreds more would be set free possibly every year thereafter.
  • Persons serving DBI sentences under Two and Three Strikes laws would be parole eligible in 20 years.
  • A Life With Parole Reinvestment Fund would be established and would transfer 50 percent of the funds to Offender Reentry Programs.
  • SB 942 would take effect in 60 days after passage.
  • The time is ripe for passage of a parole eligibility bill to finally become enacted as law in Pennsylvania.
  • And this is probably a once in a lifetime deal to get done, so we should seize the time.

Yes, SB 942 has its drawbacks of providing a provision excluding those convicted of killing a cop from parole eligibility [and] not providing a lesser parole eligibility term than 35 and 25 years for people who did not kill or intend to kill anyone, and for veterans, geriatric, and the terminally ill.

These problems of SB 942 is what caused me to rail against it in the past. But weighing the cost-benefit of the question at hand, to support or not to support, I think it best to support SB 942 to get what we can now, and struggle to pass different bills to get other parts later. Because at the end of the day, something is better than nothing at all, and we can set free a lot of condemned people who would otherwise die in prison.

Those are issues we’re going to have to deal with later. But before we can get to those issues, let’s support SB 942 now, and set those who are deserving free.

Write to Shakaboona:

Smart Communications/Pennsylvania DOC

Kerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826

SCI Rockview

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733