Recently, I wrote a letter to Governor Shapiro on behalf of my friend Yvonne. I met Yvonne when we were partnered to write our spiritual autobiographies. I soon learned that Yvonne was optimistic, kind, and generous. I haven’t met Yvonne in person because she has been incarcerated in MUNCY State Prison for 40 years.
She is in prison for a crime she committed long ago, when she was young and addicted to drugs. Now she is not only a devout Christian working on getting a college degree but also a senior citizen.
Hearing Yvonne’s story, I soon learned that she is not alone. There are way too many women serving life sentences in Pennsylvania. Many of them have become senior citizens and are no longer a threat to society. Our state has the second highest number of people sentenced to life in prison without parole. I am confused and ashamed that we need to punish people for what amounts to forever.
To me death by incarceration is a crime against humanity and is the cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the United States Constitution. Perhaps if you met Yvonne or others who are lifers in our prison system you would realize that they are more than the crimes they committed decades ago.
Perhaps they are just human beings who deserve forgiveness and a second chance.
I urge Governor Shapiro and Pennsylvania legislators to reconsider Pennsylvania’s practice of sentencing people to life in prison.
Please give Yvonne and others like her a second chance.
Debra Orben, Springfield Township