Families of inmates sentenced to life terms when they were juveniles gathered Friday to ask Pennsylvania lawmakers to eliminate life-without-parole as a form of punishment.
Kimberly King was one of those calling for compassion during a rally in Philadelphia.
Telling her story to dozens assembled at the Arch Street United Methodist Church, King said the number 22 has special meaning — her older brother was 22 when he was sentenced to life in prison, and her little brother was murdered at 22.
“In truth, no matter what happens to the person who took my brother’s life, it does not make the pain easier,” King said. “Forgiveness is important, and I say that coming from both sides.”
King thinks that convicted murderers ought to serve serious time for their crime, but it shouldn’t always have to be a lifetime sentence. In short, she said she believes in the power of redemption.
“It may seem as if the healing comes from seeing the perpetrator put away. But it does nothing,” she said. “I am speaking from my personal experience.”
Her older brother, Tarrel Carter, was sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him of murder.
Carter, who’s now 47, is an author and teaches classes to other inmates in prison. King said they talk on the phone every day.
“He could be doing so much more outside than he’s doing inside, so it’s a waste of a human life,” King said.
Organized by the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, the demonstrators were seeking an end to sentencing youth to life without the possibility of parole.
Pennsylvania’s tough-on-crime laws have given the state more juvenile lifers than any other state. In Philadelphia alone, some 300 prisoners now qualify for new sentencing hearings after a recent U.S. Supreme Court case found that not only is condemning teen murders to life unconstitutional going forward, but that standard needs to apply to cases that have long since closed.
Although the high court said that mandatory life without parole isn’t constitutional, it still gives prosecutors the power to try to lock up a murder suspect for life in some cases.
After the event, mothers and other family members marched to the city district attorney’s office to present a card to District Attorney Seth Williams.
“To Seth Williams for Mother’s Day,” the giant card read. “Bring Our Loved Ones Home!”