Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Study Shows Inconsistencies With Prison Terms

A new report indicates indicates inconsistencies in prison sentences for similar crimes in Pennsylvania. The Senate and House Judiciary Committees commissioned the University of Pennsylvania's Criminal Law Research Group to study sentencing guidelines in state law. Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic Chairman Daylin Leach says the report found several instances where the criminal code defines offenses that are inconsistent with the relative seriousness of the offense as compared to other offenses..."for one crime you might have a 90 day maximum sentence and another similar offense might have a 15 year maximum. That's not rational nor fair."
Leach says one way to correct the disparity in sentencing is to cut back on mandatory minimum sentences..."With the same crime, there may be 2 defendants who have totally different levels of intent, levels of conduct, and we treat them the same in mandatory way. That's not smart."
The Montgomery County lawmaker says the state has to stop increasing penalties for crimes unless it's called for by empirical data..."we'll take a crime and increase the penalty, then increase it again a year later, not because anything's happened, but because some legislator wants to look tough on crime." He says the state has to spend $200 million a year annually for the foreseeable future to build prisons because per capita as a state, Pennsylvania is incarcerating more people than almost any other place. A new federal report indicates that Pennsylvania's prison population grew by 9.1% from 2007 to 2008....more than any other state.
Leach says there is legislation that could help to eliminate disparities in sentences but an overhaul is needed and whether "we have the will to do an overhaul is questionable."

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