As we embark upon another election this fall, I feel that because of my background and experience of being an inmate has given me insight that I’d like to share. I’m not a politician and it’s not something I normally comment too much on. However I have become passionate about criminal justice reform and prison reform. Our current Lt. Governor John Fetterman is running for Senate along with Dr. Oz. I brought this up before in a previous post. Mr.Fetterman also serves on the board of pardons for the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Oz is running his campaign on the premise that Mr.Fetterman wants to set everyone free and Pa will no longer be this safe place to reside. Here is some background information I never knew until I was incarcerated.
When you receive a mandatory life sentence in Pa, you’re allowed to file for commutation after you serve half of that sentence. The process to do this is long, difficult and not guaranteed. Sometimes people may apply several times before they’re granted a review. Some never receive the chance . When I was in SCI Cambridge Springs , they created this video and shared it on the TV for everyone to be aware of how the process works. Here’s a link to Naomi’s story https://youtu.be/rU2IzPAk7VQ. I agree with Mr. Fetterman in the video he talks about the difference between punishment and vengeance. I admired his statement because he’s taken the time to understand that not everyone who received a life sentence or extensive sentence should have been. As political scenes change sentences have changed. So someone who was sentenced harshly 15-20 years ago, would never have received that sentence if committed today. One thing I never knew before until I was incarcerated was sometimes you’ll hear someone sentenced to life plus 20, 39,etc. I often wondered why. I thought life meant life. Why add additional time? We’ll circle back to the fact that after you serve half your sentence you can file for commutation. If you have a sentence of life plus x amount of years, you still have the minimum x sentence to do. Therefore it’s next to impossible to be granted release.
Let’s look at some other scenarios. If you are lucky enough to be granted commutation btw you’re still on parole for the remainder of your life. When you get out, you must live in a center aka halfway house that’s run and operated by the DOC. You do have freedoms but they aren’t just letting people loose.. In Pennsylvania parole is not guaranteed. When you’re sentenced you’re given a minimum date and a maximum date. The minimum is the earliest you’ll be able to see the board. The maximum or Max as it’s called is the maximum amount of time the DOC can hold you. Many times people who are parole violators will get tired of being on paper aka parole. If they are close to their max date they might choose to max out. They sign paperwork stating that they agree to be incarcerated until their max date. If approved they walk out free and clear. I’ve seen many do this because of the parole process and how it’s handled if you violate. Long story short, you could violate for something small and it’s up to the parent board if they’ll allow you to keep your street time or not. So if you were out for 9 months and violated, when you go back to jail you have a hearing. They can say, I’m taking away the 9 months you did on the street plus I’m hitting you with another 6 months or whatever they decide. There’s really no set in stone guidance. It becomes a vicious circle and trap for a lot of people. One of the things Dr.Oz is claiming that Mr. fetterman wants to do away with the felony murder sentence, A locall news station did some fact checking and here is the real story: https://www.wgal.com/article/ad-watch-fetterman-felon-murder/41234237
One, if not many things I learned while incarcerated is that ANYONE ANYTIME COULD END UP THERE. Ironically the story included in the article regarding felony murder is an example I was going to share with you. What if you’re out with friends and one goes inside a convenience store to pay. What if they decide to pull a gum, hold the clerk at gun point then shoot them as they leave. You didn’t go there to participate in that but you easily could end up with conspiracy charges if you’re lucky to get it pled down to that. There’s women sitting in prison after years of abuse, before there wasn’t the amount of help there is today. They fought back and the spouse lost their life. Automatically they received a life sentence. Now, many women are still serving time but instead getting voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charges. They are some of the violent criminals everyone is afraid to see freed. You can best believe they are not allowing just any inmate to file and be set free. Use some common sense. Or has all common sense become very uncommon?