ACLU report examines ‘pipeline’ legislation in Pa. | Thursday Morning Coffee

‘None of these bills make Pennsylvanians any safer,’ Randol said

By: - April 27, 2023 6:30 am

(Canva image/The Alaska Beacon)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A new report from the ACLU is shedding light on legislation that it says “create new crimes, enhance existing penalties, or expand current laws that result in more people going to prison or jail.”

The ACLU’s third annual More Law, Less Justice legislative session report found that pipeline legislation, policies that make criminalization and incarceration more likely, is prevalent in Pennsylvania.

“Mass incarceration begins at the statehouse,” Elizabeth Randol, legislative director at the ACLU of Pennsylvaniasaid in a statement. 

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, a total of 308 pipeline bills were introduced. Eighteen of those bills were enacted — all with bipartisan support, according to the report

The 18 bill exacted expanded Pennsylvania’s criminal code: 

  • Adding 8 new sentencing enhancements
  • Expanding 12 offense definitions
  • Creating 25 new criminal offenses or suboffenses
  • Creating 50 new criminal penalties

“None of these bills make Pennsylvanians any safer,” Randol said. “And yet lawmakers insist on reaching for the same, broken tool in their toolbox. We cannot arrest, convict, and incarcerate our way out of this crisis.”

To combat the growing amount of pipeline legislation, the ACLU report recommended that state lawmakers: 

  • Oppose any proposed legislation that adds new criminal offenses, penalties, or sentencing enhancements,
  • Increase their reliance on public defenders as stakeholders and experts when analyzing legislation,
  • Subject legislation that proposes a new criminal offense to a crimes comparison to existing law and an impact statement regarding any racial or economic disparities that the new legislation might compound,
  • Decriminalize non-violent behavior, like drug consumption and consensual sex work.
Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

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The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

What Goes On

1 p.m.: House Republican Policy Committee will hold a Public hearing on “Manufacturing Our Way into the Future” in Allison Park, Pa.

Shapiro Sightings

Gov. Josh Shapiro and acting Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger will be at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County in Doylestown for a rountable discussion with industry leaders. The event begins at 1:15 p.m.

And now you’re up to date.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.