A sentence to spend your life in prison, get sick in prison, and die in prison is not a life sentence: it is a sentence to death by incarceration. Pennsylvania uses this inhumane sentencing more than nearly every state in the country. 

As a result, we have one of the oldest prison populations in the country. Currently 10,000 elderly incarcerated people are serving either lengthy sentences or death by incarceration with no possibility of parole.

Inside the violent prison system life expectancy changes: people 55 or older are considered elders because their lives are much shorter than people who are free. 

For those at the end of their lives, it is especially devastating. Commutation is almost nonexistent in practice. Their loved ones on the outside are not able to support them as their health and awareness deteriorates and are denied the chance to spend end-of-life time together.

Yet science indicates that people age out of violence. The vast majority of people who commit violent crimes are sentenced under the age of 25, while the brain is still developing. Many are now serving those sentences as elders, by which age recidivism rates plummet. Keeping them incarcerated serves no purpose.


One bill can offer parole to those who otherwise live in prison without hope.

Legislation is introduced in the PA senate to allow the possibility of parole for people over the age of 55 and those with chronic health conditions. You can view our easy-to-read guide on who is included in SB 835 bill here.

This would change current law which does not permit parole for those with life sentences. It would also provide earlier parole to people with lengthy sentences. It doesn’t immediately free every person over 55. The bill does provide a chance for freedom and a pathway to leaving prison and rebuilding a life. 

We are rallying, lobbying, and fighting for freedom for elders. That starts with parole legislation to bring community members home as quickly as possible. 

If you have a loved one incarcerated, or if you feel called to justice—you can get involved with Straight Ahead to advocate for geriatric and medical parole.

Join the movement to free the sick and elderly

Join the growing Pennsylvania decarceration movement for healing and redemption.