February 6, 2017
By Rodney Derrickson
I am writing this open letter to the citizens of Pennsylvania, asking for your support of Representative Jason Dawkins’ House Bill 135, “Parole Eligibility for Lifer Sentences.”
This legislation would permit lifers the opportunity to apply for parole and ask the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole to consider lifers who are redeemed and rehabilitated for parole.
Traditionally, lifers bring a degree of stability to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Institutions, due to their interest in maintaining a peaceful environment. Lifer’s experience and knowledge of the prison environment allows the opportunity to alleviate most situations when the tension is high in institutional settings.
Lifers are normally the prisoners who implement and facilitate programs that are geared to help rehabilitate other prisoners before their re-entry back into society.
Many lifers have committed the ultimate offense against society; however, I ask that you consider the fact that the vast majority of those crimes are not carried out by experienced criminals. Most frequently, these crimes are triggered by circumstances, domestic abuse, substance abuse, peer pressure, emotional trauma or a combination of these.
Studies have shown that one percent of the commuted lifers released on parole have returned to prison. In addition, commuted lifers have returned to their communities as law-abiding citizens, which demonstrate that lifers can be rehabilitated.
Representative Dawkins’ legislation creates no right to parole any lifer. Each lifer would have to go before the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, which can reject those lifers who do not deserve parole. It would only allow deserving lifers an equal opportunity to apply for parole just like Pennsylvania’s juvenile lifers, and lifers in other states.
I ask that you please support Representative Jason Dawkins’ HB 2135 by writing or emailing your elected state representative, asking that they too support House Bill 135.
Your support would give deserving lifers hope, and a huge incentive to change their lives . Thank You.
Rodney Derrickson is a juvenile lifer, and adviser to Fight for Lifers West. You may send comments to:
Rodney Derrickson #CW6633
SCI Forest, PO Box 945
Marienville, PA 16239.