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Quad State Legislative Conference Focuses on Justice Reform

Criminal justice reform was one of the primary areas of focus at the recent Quad-State Legislative Conference, which featured state legislators from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

The annual conference, which took place in August, featured discussions on policy issues important to each state — and finding solutions to crime was determined to be a primary concern of all four.

The Maryland legislature, for its part, passed a major criminal justice reform bill earlier this year. The bill provides more opportunities for treatment over punishment for low-level drug offenders, although it also increased the penalties for violent offenses like second-degree homicide.

State Sen. Michael Hough of Maryland shared with conference attendees that personally, he had changed his perspective on crime, moving away from his previous stance which favored mandatory minimums. Now, Hough said, he favors a restorative justice approach, which aims to restore communities rather than simply punish those convicted of crimes.

Hough also said that, after doing some research and looking at what has worked in other states, legislators in Maryland found that there could be substantial cost savings to taxpayers by reducing incarceration rates for nonviolent offenders. Additionally, legislators from the other three states represented at the conference — including Pennsylvania — said that their states were in the process of looking at similar criminal justice reform efforts.

A national trend

In many ways, the discussions taking place at the Quad-State Legislative Conference reflects a changing approach nationwide to how law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts deal with low-level drug offenders. The trend has been to move away from mandatory minimums and toward rehabilitation and restoration, which can reduce jail and prison populations and allow those dealing with drug problems to focus on recovery.

While these efforts are promising, the fact remains that Pennsylvania continues to have strict penalties in place for those convicted of drug-related crimes. If you have been arrested and need sound legal guidance, meet with skilled Reading drug crime defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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