P.I.L.P. DIRECTOR APPOINTED TO STATE-WIDE
TASK FORCE ON ELDERLY INMATES
Angus Love, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, was appointed to the Joint State Government Commission and Advocacy Task Force to study geriatric and serious ill inmates housed in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections system. Senate Resolutin149, passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature last session, created the Task Force and the Advisory Panel.
The group brings together an Impressive array of experts in our criminal justice system. It includes judges, district attorneys, social workers, legislators, a former Attorney General, Ernie Preate, and a former Lieutenant Governor, Mark Singel. It is anticipated that the group will conclude its work within eighteen months with recommendations to the Legislature.
Pennsylvania has one of the largest elderly prison populations in the country. Elderly offenders cost three times as much to house as youthful offenders due to health care costs. Pennsylvania's sentencing structure has contributed to the huge elderly and life sentence population.
Pennsylvania does not have a parole option for sentences of first and second degree murder. The commutation process which previously served as a back door release mechanism for lifers has been brought to a standstill by recent Constitutional changes implemented by former Governor Tom Ridge.
The Pennsylvania DOC has created a special prison to house elderly and disabled inmates at Laurel Highlands. Love is optimistic that the group can begin a process of revising law and regulations that will relieve the Commonwealth of a significant financial burden without compromising public safety. Studies have shown that elderly offenders are the least likely to commit new crimes upon release. Compromised health issues further inhibit their ability to return to a life of crime.
Some jurisdictions, confronted by budget crises and crowded facilities, have been forced to release large numbers of offenders. Love hopes the task force recommendations can avoid such desperate moves by sensible long-range planning.