Fight for Lifers (FFL) is a program of Reconstruction that addresses the concept of Life without the possibility of parole, for men and women in the State of Pennsylvania. At present, there is no chance of people serving a life sentence to be released on Parole.Fight for Lifers (FFL) supports people serving a life sentence in PA., and their families, working to abolish this type of sentencing. In addition, FFL has a sister organization located in Pittsburgh, PA. (i.e. Fight for Lifers West). This program has seven focus areas:

  1. Commutation
  2. Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP)
  3. Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)
  4. Women Lifers
  5. Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill
  6. Elderly Lifers
  7. Mentally Ill

1. Commutation: Which at present is the only way in which a Lifer can be released from prison. This entails a submission of application to the Board of Pardons, and requires the signature of the Governor before the inmate is released.

2. Juvenile Life without parole (JLWOP): Which is an issue that FFL is addressing in an attempt to stop the sentencing of children as adults, thus allowing the courts to send these children to prison for the rest of their natural lives.

3. Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA): This is a process that allows a inmate to litigate his.her case by submitting evidence to the courts, that could lead to his/her release from prison. However, since 1995, PA has changed the law so that a person has “one year” after final appeals to submit any evidence to the courts, or their legal arguments will not be considered. FFL believes that this is a constitutional violation of “due process”, and interferring with “access to the courts”, and the organization is fighting to get this legislation overturned.

4. Women Lifers: FFL has expanded its educational initiatives to include the unique and specific challenges that life sentenced women experience.  This small (about 200) but significant population of women lifers has been negatively impacted by a profound lack of public awareness about their crimes, rehabilitation, contributions to returning women and their communities, and further marginalization within and by the DOC and legal community.

Watch a short video of the at SCI Muncy

5. Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill:  Compassionate release refers to a court’s authority to permit the early release of a prisoner based on “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” Congress codified the option for compassionate release in federal statute 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A)(i), however several states have taken care to create their own compassionate release statutes applicable to state prisoners.

6. Elderly Lifers:  PA also incarcerates the second highest amount of elderly prisoners of any state. Not everyone who is elderly in prison is serving LWOP, but many are. In 1980 there were 370 elderly people in PA’s state prisons, now there are over 8000.

7. Mentally Ill: Due to the closing of state hospitals and the high cost of private facilities, prisons have become excessively populated with men, women and children whose mental health status has been criminalized.  Prison exacerbates the illness and fails to provide appropriate treatment.  Mentally ill prisoners often are sent to harsh punishment cells and units which only worsen their conditions.