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Bill Tracker: Creating parole for elderly and infirm

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Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.

Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

Pennsylvania is getting older.

Between 2009 and 2016, the number of people living in Pennsylvania aged 65 or older grew by more than 200,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As the state’s population ages, so too has the population of people being held in state prison.

Inmates aged 65 or older in state prisons more than doubled between 2009 and 2016, according to the state Department of Corrections.

A bill introduced by two state representatives would offer an alternative to incarceration for elderly and infirm inmates.

House Bill 2046, introduced by Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Philadelphia, and Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Philadelphia, would allow certain elderly inmates to petition for medical parole.

To qualify, an inmate would have to be over the age of 55 and permanently medically incapacitated, suffering from a terminal illness or over the age of 65 and has served at least 25 percent of his or her sentence.

In both cases, the inmate cannot have a prior or current conviction for a violent crime, which includes sex offenses, aggravated assault and arson.

A petition for parole does not guarantee the inmate’s release.

While the bill excludes several violent crimes, these kinds of offenses tend to be committed by younger men, and people generally age out of criminal behavior.

For example, more than 65 percent of the people charged with aggravated assault in Pennsylvania in 2016 were 35 years old or younger at the time of their offense, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.

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Agg Assault age distribution

This chart shows the age distribution for people charged with aggravated assault in Pennsylvania in 2016 based on charges filed in the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.

About 2 percent were over the age of 60 and less than 1 percent were 65 years old or older, according to court records.

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Robbery age distribution

This chart shows the age distribution for people charged with robbery in Pennsylvania in 2016 based on charges filed in the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.

The drop off was even more stark for individuals charged with robbery. Nearly 80 percent of people charged with robbery in Pennsylvania in 2016 were 35 years old or younger, with nearly half being less than 26 years old, according to the analysis.

Less than 1 percent were over the age of 60 at the time of the offense, court records showed.

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Arson age distribution

This chart shows the age distribution for people charged with arson in Pennsylvania in 2016 based on charges filed in the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.

Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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Cops & Courts Reporter

Crime & Courts Reporter at The Sentinel.

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