ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
Under current law, people are entitled to parole consideration once a year, except for those convicted of murder of an unborn child or law enforcement officer, which the parole board may elect to hear every five years.
HB 1538 (PN 3666) would amend this statute to require that people convicted of one of thirteen different offenses wait three years to reapply for parole if parole was previously denied. The bill also clarifies that a hearing examiner, hearing officer or member of the board charged with making the parole release decision shall be required to hear and see in person, without the use of videoconferencing or similar virtual presence technology, any in-person victim testimony.
HB 1538 permits the Parole Board to delay parole consideration based not on the merits of an individual’s application, but on offense type. By doing so, it permits arbitrary and excessive punishment, resulting in longer prison stays and needless squandering of corrections resources with no discernible benefit to public safety. And arbitrarily prohibiting the use of videoconferencing for the purpose of considering testimony will likely delay hearings indefinitely for the duration of the pandemic.
House Bill 1538 was enacted as Act No. 124 of 2020.