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Senate measure for lifers pulled

DA happy proposal never made it to floor

The Pennsylvania Senate during its now-closed session debated many bills, but Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio is pleased that at least one bill dealing with life-sentenced inmates never made it to the floor.

Senate Bill 942 proposed that any inmate sentenced to life would be eligible to apply for parole after serving only 15 years.

And that proposal would be retroactive, meaning that those individuals sentenced over the years to life would also be able to request parole after serving the minimum 15 years.

Consiglio was alerted to the bill by the Pennsylvania District Attor­neys Association, and he stated emphatically, “It’s a bad bill.”

Senate Bill 942 was introduced in March by Democratic Sens. Sharif Street of Philadelphia and Daylin Leach of Delaware County and Republican Bob Mensch of Berks County.

While it dealt with other aspects of sentencing for murder, it concluded by stating, “any person serving a life sentence under the laws of the Commonwealth may be eligible for parole review after serving 15 years of imprisonment.”

Life sentences in Pennsylvania currently do not include the possibility of parole.

Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the bill did not receive enough votes to make it out of committee and it was pulled before coming up for a vote.

But in all probability, the idea of parole for lifers is not dead and will come up again in the years ahead.

“It’s not going away,” stated attorney Greg Rowe, the director of Legislation and Policy for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Associa­tion.

In news reports from when the bill was conceived, Street said that giving lifers the possibility of parole would eventually save taxpayers money and that many lifers were sentenced as accomplices to murder as opposed to the commission of the actual killing, and finally, “redemption should be available for all” as a moral imperative.

The Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate, which opposed the bill, issued a statement noting “at a time when we are fighting to extend the rights of crime victims, it is unconscionable to put forth a bill of this magnitude.”

It pointed out how the office has been advocating to extend the rights of crime victims.

“It’s time for Pennsyl­vania to protect our victims/survivors. … To stand with them,” the OVA stated.

Rowe said parole for lifers “shouldn’t happen.”

“We are absolutely opposed to it. There are some very dangerous people who commit crimes and who shouldn’t see the light of day,” he explained.

Eichelberger said the possibility has been discussed of parole for lifers who may be old, at the end of life, or very ill, and are not a threat to anybody in society, but he did not support the bill, noting the Republicans on the committee voted “no.”

He stated that under the bill as written, the odds of the lifers eventually receiving parole would improve as friends and family of the victims became older and were not available or able to continue to oppose parole.

Consiglio was very outspoken in his opposition.

He not only supports the application of the death penalty for killers, but strongly believes life should mean life.

“It’s just another bad bill. … It’s an anti-law enforcement, anti-victim bill,” he said this week.

“These liberal nuts don’t care at all what happens,” he concluded.

A review of Pennsyl­vania’s inmate locator showed that as of Friday, Blair County had 498 inmates in the state correctional system, including at least 28 for various degrees or acts of taking a life.

Included in that number were three death row inmates and 16 other prisoners serving life.

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