This campaign was inspired by Betty Heron’s 80th Birthday on April 8, 2020. Aging people are vulnerable always inside of prisons but especially during a respiratory viral pandemic.
April 8, 2020 Betty Heron. 80 years old. 35 years in
Pennsylanian Betty Heron, for whom April 8th is her 80th birthday, has served 38 years at SCI-Cambridge Springs. Heron was convicted of killing her abusive husband in 1982 and sentenced to life without parole. “He systematically and continuously abused me, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It was going to be one or the other,” she states. According to Survived and Punished, the majority of people serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) in women’s prisons, are survivors of abuse, including intimate partner battering, childhood abuse, sexual violence and trafficking.
Let Grandma Go is a public awareness campaign to make visible aging women in prison, pass laws that would liberate the elderly in prison and bring our friends home.
As time wears on, people who were sentenced to Death By Incarceration and other long sentences in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are getting older inside prisons. Their bodies are wearing out. They’ve become fundamentally different people than they were at the time of their arrest. Often, they use their skills as talented mentors, teachers, and peer educators to make a difference in the lives of younger incarcerated people and improve the world around them. We know that the punishment-driven system that keeps them incarcerated is oppressive, inhumane, and unjust. And equally, we know our communities will be stronger with these elders and mentors home.
As part of the fight to free our elders, Let’s Get Free and CADBI (Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration) are sending monthly postcards to PA state legislators and DAs. The postcards highlight the stories of incarcerated women elders and urge politicians to support bills in the PA General Assembly.
April 22nd was Jennifer Rhodes’ birthday! Jennifer has spent the last 31 years in prison during which she has earned an Associates degree in Business, certification as an Optician, and soon will hold certification as a Braille Transcriber. She is also a role model and counselor to other incarcerated women. She has a daughter, who was just six years old when she was sentenced to Life Without Parole. At 64, she currently suffers from myeloid leukemia, Graves’ disease, degenerative joint disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Support Medical and Geriatric Parole Reform in Pennsylvania Pass SB 835 and HB 2347
SB 835 and HB 2347 are identical companion bills. If passed, they would create a mechanism for certain ill and/or aging incarcerated people in Pa. state correctional institutions (SCIs) to petition the Pa. Parole Board for release. The bills also require Pa. Dept. of Corrections staff to help incarcerated people with petitions for release, provide relevant records, notify families of their incarcerated loved one’s terminal medical diagnosis, facilitate quick visitation after a terminal diagnosis, and track statistics about medical and geriatric parole and other items for the legislature to review yearly
Read the FAMM’s Full Bill Summary