The Lead

Pa. has made strides, but Wolf’s successor must continue criminal justice reform | Capital-Star Letters

By: - August 20, 2021 6:30 am

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We are organizations involved in reducing the harm and footprint of incarceration and criminalization in Pennsylvania.

The next governor of Pennsylvania will oversee an office that has broad powers over the Commonwealth’s criminal legal system. He or she will have substantial influence over Pennsylvania’s budget and legislation, including a veto power, and could grant clemency to people who are not a threat to public safety, or who should otherwise not be in prison.

Our current governor, Tom Wolf, has taken a number of steps to reduce the harm of the incarceration complex on Pennsylvanians, including a moratorium on the death penalty.

Wolf, a Democrat, will leave office in 2022 after serving the constitutional maximum of two, four-year terms.

Whoever succeeds Wolf should expand on those steps, and should not hesitate to sign onto legislation that addresses and reduces harm caused by outdated and overly punitive criminal laws.

Pennsylvania’s next governor must provide leadership on issues that impact millions of us, including some 96,000 people in federal, state, county, and juvenile custody who are incarcerated in Pennsylvania right now.

Those issues include:

  • Ending the death penalty.
  • Ending mandatory minimums.
  • Ending the practice of charging death by drug delivery.
  • Ending life without parole.
  • Ending solitary confinement.
  • Decriminalizing substance use, poverty, and mental illness.
  • Reallocating resources to public health infrastructure including emergency healthcare responders and violence interrupters.
  • Increasing transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
  • Establishing appropriate state funding for effective indigent defense across the Commonwealth.
  • Supporting harm reduction centers that prevent drug overdose deaths.
  • Using the enormous power of clemency to reduce harsh sentences so that people who are not a threat to public safety are released.

These issues are interconnected and core to the over-incarceration of disproportionately Black and brown communities, and need to be addressed by the next governor of Pennsylvania.

This letter was jointly written by:

Abolitionist Law Center
ACLU of Pennsylvania
Amistad Law Project
Atlantic Center for Capital Representation
Art for Justice
Black Progress PAC
Cheltenham NAACP
Chinese for Families
Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration
Community Hero Action Group
Delaware County Office of the Public Defender
Gardening for Change
Homeless Advocacy Project
Jules Epstein, Professor of Law at Temple School of Law Juvenile Law Center
Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP
Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC
Montgomery County Participatory Defense
Norristown NAACP
PA for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Pennsylvania Women Rise
Pennsylvania Stands Up
Pottstown NAACP
PowerUp PAC
Progressive Montco
Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania
Reuniting Family Bail Fund
Straight Ahead
The Isaiah Project
Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project
Movement for Black and Brown Lives in Montgomery County

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