This letter is in response to the recent commentary on Pennsylvania's criminal sentencing guidelines. In a commentary and during a visit to this city, a Common Pleas judge criticizes the lack of judicial discretion available to judges due to the sentencing guidelines. The honorable judge believes drug dealers should be released from prison along with "non-violent" offenders. In addition, he decries the rise of female inmates in Pennsylvania's prisons.
Drug dealers are violent. They are parasites who feed on the addiction of other humans. Speak to family members of drug addicts and feel the pain and suffering they endure while their loved one lives on the street or in a flop house, concerned only for his/her next fix. Listen to drug addicts who endure the most depraved and demeaning existence at the hands of their addiction. And know drug dealers make their money on human suffering. How is that not violent? What about drug dealers disguising drugs as "pop rocks" candy and handing it out to school kids in the hopes of creating repeat customers, is that violent? How about using juveniles as look-outs and runners in their business, is that violent?
In Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines, mandatory sentencing, which is where the judge has no discretion, is provided where the defendant is selling drugs near a school or daycare or playground. Or where the defendant rapes or molests a child. Should a judge be able to give the defendant probation or less in such a case because the judge is soft on drug dealers or child molesters?
Second, the judge decries the rise of women inmates and wants to return to "30 years ago". If one believes women have the same free will as men, one understands that women should receive the same punishment as men, if they commit a crime. To do otherwise implies that women are incapable, or should be exempt, from the rules of our society.
Pennsylvania's legislature has already passed the Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive, or RRRI, which uses a mathematical equation to slash a defendant's sentence. That legislation takes sentencing discretion from the judge, but that legislation is not criticized.
Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines were introduced to provide fair and uniform sentencing around the Commonwealth. With a few exceptions, the judge can sentence either below or above the guidelines, if he/she states the reasons on the record. The answer to rising prison populations is not to give judges the freedom to allow women offenders to be treated as if they are not responsible for their actions, or to allow drug dealers to roam our streets spreading misery and violence.
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom