Bill would give lifers chance at parole

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Life sentences in Pennsylvania are imposed without the possibility of parole. Senate Bill 942 would make it possible for people serving life to eventually have a chance at release.

Elizabeth Geyer is fighting to get her boyfriend released from prison. In 1986, George Trudel was at the scene of a 1986 murder. He’s serving life without parole. The man convicted of doing the killing was released decades ago.

“My boyfriend is destined to die in prison for something that he didn’t do,” Geyer said at a Capitol rally to support the legislation. “They get life and they’re just tossed away like they don’t matter, they’re not human. They do matter. They matter to me.”

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadephia) introduced the proposal to give prisoners serving life sentences a chance at parole after 15 years of time served.

“Twelve percent of the people that do life without parole never took a life,” Street said. “Redemption should be available for all.”

Supporters like Lt. Gov. Mike Stack say the bill does not create a right to parole.

“We’re not just saying we’re opening the prison doors. We’re saying that people can change,” Stack said.

Dangerous criminals would remain behind bars under the legislation. Pennsylvania currently has the second-highest number of people serving life without parole in the country, including the second-highest number of elderly prisoners.

“We, therefore, spend millions of dollars incarcerating people who are the least likely to re-offend,” Street said.

If passed, the bill would extend parole eligibility retroactively, which gives Geyer hope for her boyfriend.

“I am not going to stop fighting until I bring him home,” she said.

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