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Sentencing Reform Advocates Call for Review of Pennsylvania Laws

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national organization that advocates for sentencing reform across the United States, has officially called for a review of how courts in Pennsylvania approach sentencing for individuals convicted of criminal offenses.

According to an August news release, FAMM called on Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group to examine and address how mandatory minimum sentencing laws impact communities throughout the state. An official with FAMM said that mandatory minimums provide few public safety benefits, at a high cost to taxpayers.

In 2014, the Pennsylvania appellate courts struck down mandatory minimums in the state, deeming them unconstitutional. However, the Justice Reinvestment Working Group could recommend that they be reinstated, a measure FAMM and other reform advocates aim to avoid.

Mandatory minimums take a toll

Mandatory minimum sentences have come under fire across the country in recent years. According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the number of federal prisoners in the United States has grown from 24,000 to 214,000 since the 1980s, when Congress created mandatory minimums as part of the “War on Drugs.”

Furthermore, state-level spending nationwide has increased by about 300 percent over the past two decades, with U.S. taxpayers spending more than $50 billion per year to run state prisons. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reports that about 60 percent of all federal drug offenders have mandatory minimums attached to them, and about half of all people in federal prisons have been convicted of drug-related crimes.

It’s important for individuals charged with drug offenses to effectively defend themselves, as there are still harsh penalties in Pennsylvania for those convicted. To learn more about your options, work with dedicated Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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