Sentencing: Pennsylvania Senate Approves Treatment-Not-Jail Measure

Faced with budgetary pressures and a prison population that has quadrupled in the last 25 years because of harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the Pennsylvania Senate voted last week to approve a bill that would rein in skyrocketing prison costs by moving some prisoners through the system more quickly and diverting others to drug treatment. The House had already approved a similar measure and was expected to pass this bill, perhaps as early as this week.

In what would be the biggest changes in the Keystone State's criminal justice system in years, parole schedules would be accelerated, prisoners currently housed in county jails as they served their sentences would be transferred to newly freed-up state prison beds, and nonviolent drug offenders would be resentenced to drug treatment programs.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D) has supported the changes, and so has the state Corrections Department. The department dealt with slightly more than 10,000 prisoners in the early 1980s; now the system holds more than 46,000. According to the department's most recent monthly inmate population report, nearly all of the state's 32 correctional facilities are at 100% of capacity or above. The department web site does not list the number of prisoners who are drug offenders, but in most states they average between 20% and 25% of inmate populations.

Mandatory minimum laws passed in the early 1990s aimed at violent criminals ended up sending nonviolent offenders away for long sentences, too, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) told the Associated Press. "They were important bills, and they dealt with violent offenders, but it's having a broader effect than we anticipated, and it's important that we step forward and acknowledge that," said Greenleaf, a former county prosecutor who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

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Treatment-not jail

well,it's a start!!...decriminalization of marijuana would continue to be my goal,as it is not dangerous, not addictive,non -harmfull,is beneficial in sooo many ways,as for the heavier drugs this is a really good thing,any associated criminal activity associated with it,on the addict will taper off...leaving the actual dealer the only criminal here,legalize drugs altogether and switch from criminal to medical...jobs will remain,some will be lost ,but w/ all our outsourcing going on,thats life,however new training and new jobs will be created!....Don LaFace.....CH NJ.

re: Treatment-not jail

"not addictive, non-harmful, beneficial in so many ways" LOL you must be a faithful smoker because your mind is clouded! I know people who can not function until the have their daily blunt, I know mothers that dont take care of their children because they are always high, and recently in PA their was a large drug bust where the dealer was only dealing in marijuana and the raid netted all kinds of weapons Humm wonder what he needed those for when hes dealing in non- violent drug!
What a joke!! The truth is everyone believes drug dealing is a non-violent crime but reality those drug dealers are the ones shooting cops and killing 10 year olds on the streets! WTF!!!!! jozzi PA

treatment not jail

your talking about serious drug dealers, how about the college kid smoking with some of their friends. technically that is distribution and would warrent them a mandatory minimum of 2 years in a correctional facility for less than a half ounce of pot. people need to get real and get rid of the mandatory minimum and let the judge decided based on all factors involved in what the sentence should be. Mandatory minimums are ruining kids, college kids, lives with there ridiculous possession with intent charges. a kids comes home buys a few dime bags and gets busted at school with them packaged in dime bags. automatically they are prosecuted with possession with intent. the kids should be put in treatment not prison. All us parents need to wake up and tell our politicians what needs to be done to protect our kids. This is an injustice, I know I am living it right now with my daughter looking at anywhere from 2 to 10 years for possession with intent on a college campus.

re: Treatment-not jail

i was an ex-dealer im not proud to say it. but i have gotton a 1-2 years for having 3.5 grams on me. and the judge gave me a great sentance because i was preg and had other kids at home. i sat in jail for 23 days i sat on house arest for 11 months and some odd days i was on probation for 1 year after all that and for the hole 2 years i was manditoryed to get a drug test 2 times a week. well guess what it helps because most drugs go threw the poors now. and now im home off of probation and not selling drugs any more and being a mom. im happy and thank god every day that i got cought when i did before i got hurt or before i got cought with more then that.
but i belive out of all this that to lower jail inmates it would be much easyer to give out more house arest and maditory more drug testing like some attics i no get drug tested 1 time a month how crazy is that. the only drug that wont hide is pot... then if they fail to keep clean place them in jail or on house arrest so they have no way to go get it. and still manditory testing they fail again then do jail time. some people just need other help like house arrest or rehab or counceling. like look i no a man sitting in jail they found him getting into a car that had a gun in it that was parked that he was fixing. well it was not on him but guess what he got a 5-10 years now what is that these judges need to have some types of rules they love looking big and bad showing like there boss and just so out doing it any more this guy never hurt any one and is getting sentenced longer then those who held a gun to someone or shot someone its crazy these days

Legalize it already

Marijuana should be legalized our country has unfortunately turned to an oppressive nation…. In the recent years this is finally being recognized (The city of tents should be known by now) by legalizing marijuana this could become a taxable income for the city, county, state, and even federally taxable. We need a miracle to pay for this new system of hopefully unified health care (which I severely doubt will happen). If Barrack Obama tritely wants to see a change in this country for the better he will realize this and take immediate action if not I strongly believe we will become a bankrupt nation much like Russia. It is a high probability that this will occur within the next year unless this drastic step is taken. For all of those who appose this look at the testing behind marijuana most if not all test subjects may have a slower reaction time but they are the least aggressive and most paranoid test subjects in every test that you can give. If I had a choice between a drunk driver and someone under the influence of marijuana I'd pick marijuana every time. Me personally I hate marijuana I think that its not that great I've tried it I'm fully aware of what it does it doesn’t kill brain cells like alcohol it mutates them and mutation usually causes evolution this is of course fact for an organism to evolve it must first mutate. I’m simply choosing the most logical choice many people would disagree I’m assuming of those people many would be over the age of 25 most likely upper class (you were raised taught that it was bad it is only natural that you are against it now as well) I also estimate that it will legalized within the next 10 years anyway as I am sure it will not pass until we realize its too late and then economic situation will deteriorate within the next few years to the point of no return. I can see why this country would go down that path simply because I look in my own town and I see my prosecutor without emotion condemn an honor student to his drug charge with little emotion and with the given snowball affect starting at student cant go to school cant find a job because of the charge and not completing school (double beat down) student turns to a life of crime becomes a repeat offender and this ultimately comes out of the tax payers pocket and ironically the prosecutors pocket sooner or later of course the prosecutor gets to say he or she had a high conviction rate but at what cost?

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