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Essential Pittsburgh: Does Terminal Illness Within a Life Sentence Warrant Compassionate Release?

The manhunt continues for two escaped prisoners in the northeastern section of New York State. One of the men was serving a life sentence while the other, 25 years to life. The escapees present a danger to the public. However, what happens when prisoners serving a life sentence are diagnosed with a terminal illness? While they may not be a threat to the public should they be released? Public Source reporter Jeffrey Benzing looked at the issue of compassionate release and joins us in studio to address the topic. (starts at 11:56)

Benzing discusses the factors judges take into consideration when determining whether an inmate should qualify for compassionate release:

"The judge has the discretion to look at the threat to public safety. If there’s a risk for escape or someone committing some other awful heinous crime, that’s certainly something the judge considers. They hear testimony from the prosecutor. … They also can hear from the victim. It’s ultimately up to the judge to decide, but each of these parties is able to object if they wish to." –Jeffrey Benzing

Also, State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown removes his name after losing the Senate confirmation vote. WESA Celebrates tells the story of the day the South Fork Dam Broke, and a CMUgrad travels to Vietnam to remove mines and bombs that still make the Quang Tri Province dangerous long after war's end.

Wolf's Worries (starts at 0:00)

Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown is withdrawing his name as Governor  Tom Wolf's pick after coming out on the losing end of a Senate confirmation vote last week. It's a blow to the new governor who also wants his own guy for the position of Executive Director of the Office of Open Records but is stuck with former governor Corbett's 11th hour appointment, Erik Arneson, for the time being. We'll discuss these developments and what they mean with John Micek, editorial page editor for PennLive and the Patriot News of Harrisburg.  

WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh (Starts at 30:13)

On May 31st, 1889, the South Fork Dam in Cambria County failed, sending a flood wave through Johnstown that killed 2,209 people. Margaret J. Krauss reports.

Renew Vietnam (Starts at 34:24)

This past December, Carnegie Mellon University graduate Benjamin Welmond went to Vietnam to film members of Project Renew in action. This organization works to remove bombs, mines, and other explosives from Quang Tri Province, considered to be the most heavily bombed place in history. Mr. Welmond joins us to talk about the film.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be found here

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