By Angus Love
Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project
Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Here I am arm in arm with a good ole boy Republican legislator from Plano Texas and actually enjoying his company. Texas State Representative Jerry Madden helped convince the Texas General Assembly to scrap a $500 million prison construction bill and replace it with a $400 million Community Corrections Program. By all accounts this has been unqualified success as crime has dropped, prison population has decreased, and the state has saved over 2 billion dollars. Jerry has been properly recognized nationwide for his efforts recognized as the state legislator of the year by one distinguished organization.
Jerry came to Pennsylvania as a guest of the Pennsylvania Prison Society and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project in an effort to encourage follow Pennsylvania legislators to follow suit. He was a guest speaker at the Corrections Committee meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association [PBA]. Key stakeholders of our criminal justice system were in attendance including Senator Stewart Greenleaf, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Representative Ron Waters, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Mark Bergstrom of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission; Ed Marsico of the Pennsylvanian District Attorneys Association; Bill DiMascio, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society and PBA President Matt Crème.
Jerry’s mantra was a simple 8 word phrase, “Don’t build new prisons, they cost too much”. Two years ago Democratic State Senator James Whitmire and Jerry convinced skeptical Texas legislators to turn around the criminal justice system in Texas and invest in communities rather than more prisons. Justice reinvestment, he told the audience, means spending tax dollars “in a smart, intelligent way,” He stressed the need to utilize risk assessment tools to predict who can be rehabilitated, who can’t and to spend the time and money accordingly.
Senator Greenleaf has long been a proponent of risk assessment and has started the process in Pennsylvania. Jerry also stressed the need for bipartisanship as he noted “This is one field where liberals and conservatives can actually work together” I think we can all agree that the time has come to work together to change a failed system for the better of all concerned.
The Free Student Research Center is now OPEN. It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9AM to 3PM. The Free Student Research Center is available for use by attorneys who are current members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and who are court-appointed to the case for which they seek research (either state or CJA!).
The Free Student Research Center is located in the Jack Myers Memorial Lounge on the Third Floor of the CJC. You may make a research request in person or via the Criminal Justice Section website at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch