Montgomery and Bucks County State Senator Stewart Greenleaf (pictured here) says his prison reform bill that the senate has already passed could be up for a house vote within a few days. He says the inmate population is skyrocketing, and the emphasis in recent years on longer and longer sentences for more and more offenses is not working.
“We are now, or at least we were up until a few months ago, adding 2,000 new inmates to our state prison system every year. That equates to one new penitentiary every year at $200 million to build it and between $50 and $60 million to operate it, and with no appreciable decrease in violent crime.”
He says making sentencing and the parole system more flexible can reduce both the prison population and the violent crime rate.
“If we don’t do anything we won’t be able, and we are not able, to keep up with the prison population. We can’t build the prisons fast enough.”
Greenleaf says he has written many bills that led to mandatory minimum prison terms for drug offenses and other crimes, but now he believes judges need more discretion in sentencing because every crime is different, and the punishment should fit the crime. He says the state must reform sentencing and parole practices to make them both tough and smart. He says many times inmates spend as much as 150 percent of their minimum terms for technical parole violations, which do not involve new criminal activity. He says that’s overkill, and it’s neither tough nor smart.