Children Don’t Matter: The Numbers Don’t Lie
Pennsylvania don’t care about the human rights of children. There, I’ve said it. Many people are fearful of making such a straightforward yet truthful statement. But the numbers don’t lie:
- PA has 540 children serving Life-Without-Parole (LWOP) prison sentences.
- PA has the most children serving LWOP sentences in the nation and in the world.
- In PA, about 70 percent of children serving LWOP prison terms are African-American and 10 percent are Latino.
- In PA, of the 540 children serving LWOP prison terms, about 350 are from the city of Philadelphia.
- In PA, LWOP is a mandatory prison sentence for First and Second degree murder offenses. Post-SB 850, there is now a different sentencing scheme for child offenders, which does not retroactively apply to the 540 child offenders already serving LWOP.
- PA is one of only six states that has LWOP imprisonment as the only life sentencing option. A Life prison sentence is a Death sentence in PA.
- In PA, about a third of child offenders serving LWOP prison sentences have second degree murder convictions, which is a felony-murder charge which says that legally the child did not murder anyone but was involved in some way.
- In PA, due to a post-1977 state statute that changed the Board of Pardons, commutation of LWOP sentences are no longer possible for children serving LWOP.
- In PA, children serving LWOP imprisonment are calling LWOP sentences “Death by Incarceration,” which is the new death penalty.
- PA spends $2 billion a year maintaining its Department of Corrections, with annual increases of $100 million to cover contractual increases in costs.
- In two years, the Philadelphia school district has stripped $400 million out of its annual budget, closed 30 schools, eliminated 7,000 jobs of mostly teachers, and suffers from a $304 million deficit. At the same time, PA is constructing three new prisons at a cost of $800 million.
- In PA, a devastating public school-to-prison pipeline has been quietly thriving over the past few decades, resulting in children of color being treated as undesirables and thrown away like disposable diapers in social trash bins we call prison.
Children don’t matter. The numbers don’t lie.
The Patriot News, article, “Reform Continues to Elude Corbett,” February 2014.
Sentencing Project Report, “Life Goes On: The Historic Rise of Life Sentences in America,”
Decarcerate PA, Life Sentences Report, January 2014.
Kerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826
SCI Rockview, Box-A
Bellefonte, PA 16823