Josh Shapiro, a candidate for the position of attorney general and currently chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency recently announced a plan to reform the state’s criminal justice system. This announcement is part of a general shift towards offering more diversionary programs and reducing recidivism nationwide. If implemented, these changes could have a significant impact on the lives of many inmates. If you have questions or concerns about how the new reforms could impact your case, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain the legal ramifications of criminal justice reform.
The Goals of Reform
According to the chairman, the reforms will be aimed at achieving the following goals:
- Creating an increased emphasis on diversion programs by offering treatment to those with substance abuse problems;
- Ensuring that Pennsylvania residents receive a fair defense;
- Providing training to those with criminal records on breaking the cycle of recidivism;
- Reforming the state’s sentencing policies;
- Ensuring that cases involving the use of force by law enforcement officers are handled fairly and objectively; and
- Improving communication between members of the community and police officers.
To help achieve these goals Shapiro has proposed implementing the following initiatives:
- Reducing the disproportionately high contact of minority youth with members of law enforcement;
- Providing supplemental training to law enforcement officers to help them deal more effectively and appropriately with local communities; and
- Reducing access to illegal guns by instituting universal background checks for gun buyers and expanding Philadelphia’s gun violence task force.
The reforms will also attempt to address the increasing number of heroin and opioid-related deaths and arrests occurring across Pennsylvania by:
- Diverting nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems to mandatory treatment programs;
- Enlisting the aid of drug and insurance companies in providing more access to treatment; and
- Collaborating with the police, the courts, the medical community, and human services providers.
Shapiro recommends implementing the changes recently made in Montgomery County across the state, primarily by:
- Issuing a standing order for life-saving Naloxone for victims of opioid overdose;
- Addressing the over-prescription of drugs by physicians and pharmacists; and
- Providing access to drop boxes for unused medications.
Additional proposals include:
- Putting an end to drastic price increases for prescription drugs, such as Naloxone by investigating drug company marketing practices;
- Holding insurance companies accountable for the creation of procedural barriers to obtaining treatment for substance abuse;
- Providing easier access to opioid alternatives;
- Prioritizing the prosecution of drug traffickers by working with the District Attorneys and the Attorney Generals from nearby states; and
- Partnering with law enforcement agencies and community leaders to remove high-level drug dealers from the community while reforming low-level offenders.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Abuse and corruption in the criminal justice system have led to overcrowded prisons, an increased recidivism rate, and unfair prosecutions. The recommended reforms could help redress some of these wrongs. If you live in Philadelphia and were recently charged with a crime, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim by calling (215) 486-0123 and we will help you schedule a free consultation with a dedicated criminal defense attorney.