Pennsylvania must re-evaluate its mandatory sentencing laws. They have created a monster: too many inmates, for too little reason.
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Pennsylvania is not alone in this situation. Policies such as three-strikes, mandatory minimums, juvenile waivers, and exceptionally long sentences for non-violent offenses have contributed to the current crisis. The Pew Center recently reported that 1 percent of U.S. adults are now incarcerated. While the prison population has been increasing, the property and violent crime rates have been declining.
Every state must begin to dismantle the "get tough" policies of the 1980s and 90s. The escalating costs of incarceration are threatening other parts of state budgets, while missing the mark with regard to addressing the substantive issues related to criminal offending. We cannot build our way out of this mess.
We must reduce the prison population and provide much needed treatment. Criminal codes must be revamped, probation and parole must be reformed, and judges and prosecutors must participate in the overall reform of the system. If we fail to make the necessary changes, we will have wasted money, lives, and opportunity.