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Episode 43: Without parole

Pennsylvania sentences people to life in prison for murder far more often than the average state, even if they haven’t killed anyone

  • Katie Meyer

 Emma Lee / WHYY

If a person is given a life sentence in Pennsylvania, they can be fairly confident that—barring a commutation—they’ll be behind bars until they die.

In the commonwealth, life in prison always means life without parole. And if a person is found guilty of non-capital first-degree or second-degree murder, life without parole is the only sentence available under current statute.

That sometimes means that if someone takes part in a crime—say, a robbery—in which someone dies, they can be handed a life sentence even if they didn’t kill anyone. And it also means Pennsylvania locks people up for life at a higher rate than any other state.

Last week, WESA reporter An-Li Herring published two stories explaining this practice and documenting a growing push to change the way Pennsylvania metes out life sentences.

This week on the podcast we’ll get an inside look at her reporting, and hear from two men she spoke to who, until recently, were serving life sentences in the commonwealth.

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