While speaking to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections about inconsistencies in their records, we at PADP learned that on June 27, 2010, William C. Holland--a man who was awaiting execution by the state of Pennsylvania--had died of 'natural causes' at the age of 54. Mr. Holland had been sentenced to death on February 7th, 1986, meaning that he had been on death row for 24 years.
Yet there is no mention of him in area newspaper columns, obituaries, or even the state Department of Corrections. Mr. Holland's name has been all but erased from the records; a simple screen displaying the message 'prisoner not found' is all that results from of a search for his name on the Department of Corrections website. Mr. Holland is far from the first to suffer this fate. Because Pennsylvania has only executed three individuals since its reinstatement, to be sentenced to execution is nearly a guarantee that you will die on death row. However, the economic cost of maintaining prisoners on death row for such a long period of time is significantly higher than a 'life without parole' sentence. Meanwhile, the state legal system remains bogged down with endless case appeals. The Death Penalty Information Center examines the time between sentencing and execution on a national scale here:
There is no reason to doubt that the number is significantly higher in 2010.
If the death penalty were eliminated, this economic, social, and political cost would not be exacted upon the taxpayers of the state of Pennsylvania without their consent, and those on death row would not have to join the countless others--like William C. Holland--who have died waiting for the state of Pennsylvania to demonstrate its disregard for social justice.
Posted by Aaron Spangler, PADP Intern, July 7, 2010