Abolishing Death By Incarceration

Policies that disregard people's capacity for transformation and condemn them to die in prison are cruel. These policies are a pillar of race and class based mass incarceration that we must bring down.

Pennsylvania is a leader in punitive sentences. With over 5,300 people sentenced to mandatory life without parole, we are second only to Florida in ‘death by incarceration’ sentences. Philadelphia alone has the highest number of people sentenced to life without parole out of any county in the country. 65% of the people serving death by incarceration in Pennsylvania are Black in a state where Black people make up only 11% of the population.

At Amistad Law Project, we fight to end a human rights crisis that condemns thousands to die in prison with no possibility of a second look.

Beyond litigating to win second chances through the courts, we campaign to end death by incarceration sentencing. We help form coalitions of stakeholders and educate the public. We participate in efforts such as the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration and the PA Justice Alliance. We also organize creative mobilizations and advocate with policy makers. We engage in transformational leadership development of incarcerated people and their family members empowering people to tell their own stories in the press, meet with policy makers face to face and organize others in their struggle for liberation. We believe the power to end long term sentences, once and for all, is in the people.

Marthea Brown holds a sign that says Mercy and Redemption
‘When my former state representative told me he didn’t support the idea of extending parole review to people sentenced to death by incarceration, I wanted to have a powerful effect to change his heart. Amistad Law Project helped me to organize a town hall in my community where we showcased the voices of formerly incarcerated people and family members of lifers. Hundreds of people came out and afterwards my state representative said he believed in second chances. Together we can be powerful.”- Marthea Brown