DeLissio votes against H.B. 741, which would reinstate mandatory minimum sentencing

PHILADELPHIA, April 7 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., voted Wednesday against H.B. 741, which would reinstate the practice of mandatory minimum sentencing in Pennsylvania.

DeLissio said that she based her vote on documentation that demonstrates the use of mandatory minimums is ineffective and unfair in combatting crime and recidivism and costly to the state – data and facts confirmed by Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel.

Mandatory minimums also remove judicial discretion in sentencing. The objective of sentencing is to rehabilitate, deter, and punish accordingly. DeLissio said that determining the most appropriate sentence for an individual is complex and case-specific, and is therefore best addressed by judges familiar with the case, the defendant, and all of the relevant circumstances and information.

DeLissio said many reports show that district attorneys do not consistently seek mandatory minimum sentences, even in cases where they are prescribed by law. The practice is used to leverage plea bargains, many times unfairly.

“If the crime warrants a harsh sentence – which many do – then a judge is beholden to his or her duty to seek justice in those cases,” DeLissio said. “If a judge does not deliver on that duty, then he or she should seek another job, or voters can decide not to retain a judge for an additional term.”

Analysis also shows that the part of H.B. 741 that reinstates mandatory minimums for drug-free school zones and for drug trafficking by weight would cost the commonwealth $53 million each year by increasing the number of drug offenders in prison and the average sentence length.

“I hope that the Senate has the wisdom to stop House Bill 741,” she said. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court may have thrown out mandatory minimums on a technicality, but we have a unique opportunity to take a good hard look at reinstating them given the compelling evidence that mandatory minimums do not enhance justice.”