(Posted October 24, 2019)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. – The next installment of the Diversity and Democracy series hosted by the Juniata College Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will explore an aspect of the corrections system which is often ignored. 

Participants will view A Dignified Death, a documentary created by the Law Program at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a panel discussion with Juniata faculty and members of the Huntingdon Chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. This event will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the Sill Boardroom within the von Liebig Center for Science at Juniata College. 

The documentary focuses on the release of terminally or seriously ill persons from Pennsylvania state prisons. As of 2017, the state had an estimated 5,370 inmates serving life sentences and expected to die in prison, with many others unlikely to outlive their sentences. 

Known as “compassionate release” or medical transfer, the state statute, 42 Pa. C.S. § 9777, was amended in 2009, but its ambiguous wording makes it ineffective. Since 2009, only 13 inmates have been released under the law. The statute requires that the inmate must be terminally ill, but includes a number of burdensome requirements which take a great deal of time to document. 

A Dignified Death demonstrates the current fact that it is nearly impossible to be released under the current law and calls for reform. The film explores why reform is justified by economics, negligible risk of recidivism, and preservation of dignity, not only for the dying inmate but for society as a whole. The video was directed and produced by Hayley Winograd, Rodney Holcombe, and Esther Clovis, all 2017 graduates of Penn Law. 

The screening and the panel discussion is a part of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s Diversity and Democracy series, which hosts events that present an opportunity to advance Juniata’s institutional goal of creating a campus community of inclusiveness from the classroom to the residence hall room to the conference room. Each event from the series is open to all members of both the Juniata and Huntingdon communities. To learn more, visit: www.juniata.edu/diversity.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.