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Broken Rules: A free panel on Pa.’s medical release law for state prisoners

by Spotlight PA

Apr 11, 2022
Leise Hook / For Spotlight PA

Older people serving life sentences in Pennsylvania’s prisons have two options for release: a commutation or the state’s version of “compassionate release.” Compassionate release offers incarcerated people who are terminally ill or incapacitated a chance to spend their remaining days with access to better medical care or with family and friends, rather than behind bars.

Over 2,000 people serving life in state prisons are over age 55, where poor health care and atypical living conditions age them at a faster rate than those on the outside. But Pennsylvania’s current compassionate release law is so narrowly written that only 31 people have successfully petitioned for release in 13 years.

As a result, thousands of people with severe medical problems remain incarcerated even if they are decades removed from the crime and no longer considered a danger to the public. This arrangement places a burden on people in prison and their families, and can cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year for housing and medical care.

On Thursday, April 14 at 6:00 p.m. EST, join us via Zoom as our panelists discuss Pennsylvania’s compassionate release rules, detail who the law impacts, and explain the strain it places on people in prison, their families, and taxpayers.

Submit your questions in advance to [email protected]

When: Wednesday, April 20 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET.

Where: via Zoom. RSVP for free here.


  • Danielle Ohl, investigative reporter for Spotlight PA
  • Celeste Trusty, secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
  • Sharif Street, Democratic state senator representing the 3rd District
  • Bradford Gamble, a successful medical release petitioner

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