Philly lawmaker wants Pa. to pay reparations to the wrongly convicted | Monday Morning Coffee

February 3, 2020 7:20 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Hopefully, you’re all rested and refreshed after Sunday night’s thrilling Super Bowl win that saw Kansas City surge in the 4th quarter to beat San Francisco.

It’s also going to be a big week, like yooge.

Democrats caucus in Iowa today. Gov. Tom Wolf gives his budget address on Tuesday morning. And on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump addresses the nation in a State of the Union address that is likely to be thermonuclear in its impeachment-era rhetoric.

So into this mix, we’ll throw a proposal by state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, who’s looking for the state to pay reparations to people who are wrongfully sent to prison.

In a memo seeking co-sponsors for his proposal, Rabb notes that Pennsylvania is one of 15 states without a law mandating compensation for innocent people for the years they lose behind bars.

“Without a state compensation law, the only option for exonerees to obtain financial justice is to file a federal civil rights lawsuit – an option that is time-consuming, expensive, often traumatic, and rarely successful,” Rabb writes. “Taxpayers are ultimately left to pick up the tab for these lawsuits, which have cost Pennsylvanians over $29 million in civil awards.”

Under Rabb’s bill, which makes no mention of how it will be financed, “Those who can demonstrate proof of their innocence will be eligible for $65,000 per year spent in incarceration, in addition to much-needed social services that would help them rejoin their communities.”

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia (Image

The laws for compensation can differ dramatically from state to state, according to the Innocence Project, which works to free those wrongly sent to prison.

For example, “under New York law, there are insufficient social services and a lack of immediate subsistence funds, while in New Jersey … wrongfully convicted people who have pleaded guilty to a crime are ineligible for compensation,” the group writes on its website.

Once they’re released from prison, the Innocence Project says wrongfully convicted people should receive “monetary compensation at a fixed rate for each year served in prison; the immediate provision of subsistence funds; and access to critical services such as housing, food, psychological counseling, medical/dental care, job skills training, education, and other relevant assistance needed to foster the successful rebuilding of their lives.”

In his co-sponsor memo, Rabb says his bill is “a critical step toward restoring the lives of the wrongfully convicted as best we can.”

This isn’t the first time around the block for Rabb on matters of compensation. Last September, Rabb dropped a bill offering reparations to Pennsylvania’s Black residents for both slavery and the centuries of institutional racism it engendered.

He’s also the co-sponsor of a bill, with GOP Rep. Frank Ryan, of Lebanon County, that would abolish Pennsylvania’s antiquated death penalty law.

Don’t be surprised if you see Rabb trying to enlist the aid of Ryan, and other criminal justice reform-minded conservatives, on this new proposal as well.

(Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
With Gov. Tom Wolf’s 6th budget address just 24 hours away, Stephen Caruso runs down everything we know — so far — about the 2020-21 spending document.

Capital-Star Correspondent Nick Field spent his Saturday hanging out with U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, as the freshman member of the House Judiciary Committee launched her 2020 re-election bid.

From our partners at the Philadelphia TribunePhilly Mayor Jim Kenney has named Celina Morrison, who is Black and trans, to run the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs.

From our partners at the Pittsburgh Current, an Allegheny County middle/high school is planning a 35-hour vigil to honor victims of violence.

On our Commentary Page, there’s a myriad of budget-related commentary:The Pa. Chamber of Business and Industry says the state needs to focus on workforce development and pro-growth policies.

Our upstairs neighbors at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture want to see a $27 million Farm Bill Mk. II.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association wants lawmakers and the administration to do something about a growing shortage of teachers by passing a $45K base wage and loan forgiveness.

Advocates at the Environmental Defense Fund want to see the state grow its efforts to fight climate change.

And the way the Philly Federation of Teachers sees it, schools that aren’t riddled with asbestos and lead might be nice. Wolf is expected to propose $1 billion in remediation efforts on Tuesday

(Photo via Flickr Commons)

Here’s the Inquirer on the addiction medicine that’s sold on the streets — and it might be saving lives.
The Post-Gazette explains how a pedestrian death in Oakland is illustrative of a national issue.
Amazingly, smoking is still allowed in more than 1,800 establishments statewide. PennLive explains why that’s the case.
Northampton County’s child services director is retiring after 45 years on the job, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

Term limit bills are picking up momentum in Philadelphia City Council, WHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM explains why Gov. Tom Wolf’s support for fossil fuels is causing him some headaches.
PoliticsPA has last week’s winners and losers in state politics. breaks down the impact of the Trump administration’s shift to Medicaid block grants.  
Once a battleground, Dems have no plans to contest Iowa in the general election, Politico reports.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both come in at 1 p.m.
State Street will be closed all morning between Second and Third Streets for the funeral of the former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed.
9 a.m., Main Rotunda: March on Harrisburg 
returns to call for property tax elimination.
10 a.m., Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, and others, mark Gun Violence Survivors Week.
11 a.m., East Rotunda: Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, and others on ending solitary confinement for minors, seniors, pregnant women, LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, and people living with mental illness.
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: The Pa. Youth Congress rallies on behalf of stalled LGBTQ non-discrimination legislation.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
9 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver
9 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Rosemary Brown
11:30 a.m.: 
Luncheon for Sen. Scott Martin
11:30 a.m.: 
Luncheon for Rep. Dan Frankel
5:30 p.m.: Senate Republican Campaign Committee 
Winter Reception
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Jake Wheatley
6 p.m.: 
2020 Kickoff reception for the House Republican Campaign Committee
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly mind-bending $26,500 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to PennLive’s Ivey DeJesus, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old fave that popped up unexpectedly over the weekend. From 2006’s ‘Version,’ here’s Mark Ronson, with the legendary Amy Winehouse, and her epochal cover of ‘Valerie.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Football Link.
The Kansas City Chiefs 
— who are from Missouri, not Kansas, despite the contentions of the 45th presidentrallied late to beat San Francisco in their first trip to the Super Bowl in a half-century. Pa. angle — K.C. Coach Andy Reid, once the bench boss for the Eagles, finally got a ring. And that was, hands down, the best halftime show in years.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.