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Tougher Criminal Sentences Could Mean Higher Costs in Pennsylvania

A significant state budget deficit in Pennsylvania has led lawmakers to consider $232 million in cuts to policing, corrections, courts and treatment programs in the state. To remedy this, the legislature is also considering a bill that would call for longer prison sentences for some crimes. If passed, the measure could lead to an $85 million burden for state taxpayers each year.

This proposal has been controversial in the Pennsylvania legislature. In addition to their reluctance to increase spending, some lawmakers are hesitant to reinstate mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug and violent crimes.

Prosecutors in favor of the legislation say mandatory minimums encourage cooperation from defendants and provide the victims of crimes with peace of mind. Opponents of mandatory minimums say there is no evidence that they deter crime and simply serve to fill prisons with nonviolent first-offenders who tend to be of low socioeconomic status. 

Mandatory minimums have long been controversial

Initially a major facet of the War on Drugs that commenced in the 1980s and continues to this day, mandatory minimums were designed to catch repeat offenders and perpetrators of major crimes, keeping them in prison and off the streets. However, federal prison data does show that “small fish” are often caught in the wake of mandatory minimums, which means the language of bills must be extremely precise to avoid unnecessarily harsh sentences for those who commit relatively minor offenses.

Critics of the bill currently making its way through the state House of Representatives say it does not do enough to avoid these the common pitfalls of mandatory minimums.

If you have been accused of a drug crime or violent offense, you could face a mandatory minimum sentence if convicted. To learn more about your rights, contact knowledgeable Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.



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