ATTENTION VERMONT LWOP PRISONERS!
The Center for Life Without Parole Studies wants to work with you to end LWOP sentences for adults in Vermont. It is the Center's position that LWOP sentences are, in fact, the death penalty and should be abolished for everyone, not just for juveniles.
If you are interested in participating, please send to the address below any information you have about LWOP in Vermont, other materials you think may be helpful, and any ideas you have about pursuing this work. We look forward to hearing from you.
THE CENTER FOR LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE STUDIES
2851 WEST AVENUE L # 302
LANCASTER, CA 93536
Letter/Draft Bill Sent to All Vermont Legislators Spring 2018
"The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved
community...This is the love that may be the salvation of our civilization." --The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Despite popular belief, life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is not a "humane" alternative to lethal injection. It is simply another form of the death penalty--death by incarceration--and a human rights violation perpetuated in plain sight on a massive scale in our country.
Over 52,000 people are serving life without parole (LWOP) sentences in the United States today, with an additional 44,000 serving "de facto LWOP" or "virtual life," sentences, those which exceed the human lifespan.
The United States stands virtually alone in the world in its use of LWOP sentences, which have been repeatedly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies as inhuman and degrading punishment. In the words of Professor Dirk Van Zyl Smit, one of the world's foremost authorities on life sentences, LWOP is a "covenant with the past," denying the prisoner the possibility of redemption, transformation, and hope. As Judge Power-Forde of the European Court of Human Rights wrote in her concurring opinion in the case of Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom:
"Hope is an important and constitutive aspect of the human person. Those who commit the most abhorrent and egregious of acts and who inflict untold suffering upon others, nevertheless retain their fundamental humanity and carry within themselves the capacity to change. Long and deserved though their prison sentences may be, they retain the right to hope that, someday, they may have atoned for the wrongs which they have committed. They ought not to be deprived entirely of such hope. To deny them the experience of hope would be to deny a fundamental aspect of their humanity and, to do that, would be degrading."
As a point of clarification, eliminating LWOP does not mean that all prisoners will be released, or that the concerns and voices of victims and victim families will be minimized. Ending LWOP will simply allow every prisoner the hope that a meaningful opportunity exists to one day demonstrate his or her fitness for release.
In recent years, decisions by United States Supreme Court have rightly virtually eliminated the use of LWOP for juveniles, and Vermont is to be applauded for removing this sentence from its criminal code in May 2015. However, these actions do not affect the vast majority of people serving LWOP, who are adults.
The Center for Life Without Parole Studies would like to work with you to introduce legislation to end LWOP sentences in Vermont; permit the fifteen Vermont prisoners currently serving LWOP the possibility of release; and place a limit on the number of years a prisoner must serve before parole eligibility. Below please find draft language of a bill to be used as a starting point for your efforts.
Thank you very much for your kind attention and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and will be following up with you in the near future as well.
Susan Lawrence, M.D., Esq.
Founder and CEO
The Center for Life Without Parole Studies
_____ REGULAR SESSION
BILL NO. _____
2017-2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
INTRODUCED BY ___________________.
To amend Title 28, Chapter 007, Subchapter 003, VSA, by amending § 502a, relating to parole eligibility.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Vermont, as follows:
Title 28 : Public Institutions And Corrections
§ 502a. Release on parole
(a) No inmate serving a sentence with a minimum term shall be released on parole until the inmate has served the minimum term of the sentence, less any reductions
for good behavior. Notwithstanding any provision of law, any person convicted of a crime shall be eligible for parole after:
Serving a minimum of twenty years for any sentence of imprisonment of more than twenty years, including a sentence of life without parole. This provision shall be retroactive to apply to all current Vermont prisoners serving life without parole and/or sentences of more than twenty years.
(b) An inmate shall be released on parole by the written order of the Parole Board if the Board determines:
(1) the inmate is eligible for parole;
(2) there is a reasonable probability that the inmate can be released without detriment to the community or to the inmate; and
(3) the inmate is willing and capable of fulfilling the obligations of a law-abiding citizen.
(c) A parole shall be ordered only for the best interest of the community and of the inmate, and shall not be regarded as an award of clemency, a reduction of sentence, or a conditional pardon.
(d) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, or any other provision of law to the contrary, any inmate who is serving a sentence, including an inmate who has not yet served the minimum term of the sentence, who is diagnosed as having a terminal or debilitating condition so as to render the inmate unlikely to be physically capable of presenting a danger to society, may be released on medical parole to a hospital, hospice, other licensed inpatient facility, or suitable housing accommodation as specified by the Parole Board. The Department shall promptly notify the Parole Board upon receipt of medical information of an inmate's diagnosis of a terminal or debilitating condition. (Added 1997, No. 148 (Adj. Sess.), § 61, eff. April 29, 1998; amended 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 187.)