Being Smart on Crime Means Being Tough on Violent Offenders
By Greg Rowe, Chief of the Legislation and Policy Unit. Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Our General Assembly continues with its important task of conducting appropriations hearings, where state agencies and other entities appear before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to discuss their budgetary needs. During this process, substantive questions about their operations and about larger policy issues are often raised and discussed as well.
This week, the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole will appear before the Appropriations Committees. The PDAA has worked closely with both in order to identify ways to streamline operations and enact smart-on-crime initiatives that will help reduce recidivism, improve efficiencies and reinvest the resulting savings back into the criminal justice system.
At the same time, we must reiterate what for us is quite simple: decisions about public safety can never be made based on saving dollars or balancing budgets. And when it comes to violent offenders – such as those who sexually assault children and the elderly, commit violent crimes with firearms or who are drug traffickers – our laws need to provide significant prison time for them.
Mandatory minimum sentences ensure appropriate and significant prison time. Mandatories, to be sure, are not appropriate for lower level criminals or those who merely possess drugs. But when it comes to criminals who are convicted of violent crimes, state prison is meant for them.
Legislative proposals focusing on the violent should not be analyzed based on the costs, but instead on the impact on public safety.
We are fortunate to have excellent partners at the Department of Corrections and Parole Board and look forward to our continued collaboration with them.