He stole a $1 lemonade, smoked pot - then nearly had to die in prison

September 27, 2017 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Twenty-four hours a day for 10 weeks, inmates in maroon uniforms with “D.O.C.” stamped on the backs held a death vigil over Frank Rodriguez. His colon cancer was terminal, but he refused to die — not behind the barbed wire and bars of Graterford Prison.

Like most states, Pennsylvania has a compassionate-release law, a way out for dying inmates. Rodriguez, who was so weak he needed help eating, bathing, and turning on his side, qualified. But successful petitions are exceedingly rare and excruciatingly slow.

Rodriguez had not committed a violent crime. He was locked up on a parole violation — smoking marijuana — for the underlying offense of stealing a $1 lemonade from a 7-Eleven store in 2013.

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