Harris: House mandatory minimums bill would repeat failures of past

HARRISBURG, April 5 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, strongly opposed a bill the House passed today (H.B. 741) that would revive several mandatory minimum sentences that have been struck down in the courts.

"Mandatory minimums don't work. Between 1980 and 1995, when mandatory minimums were popular and in full effect here and in other states, violent crime actually increased nearly 20 percent," Harris said.

"Mandatory minimums silence the voice of the voters who elect judges, not robots. Mandatory minimums remove discretion – just as with hats, one size does not fit all.

"And apparently many of those who voted for mandatory minimums don't actually want to fund them. House Republicans also passed a budget this week that would cut $130 million more from the Corrections Department than the governor's budget would – even though the mandatory minimum bill would add another $66 million to $85 million per year in costs! For the same amount this bill would cost, we could provide drug treatment for more than 9,000 people."

Harris said he hopes the state Senate will take a wiser approach.

"I've been working on criminal justice reform with members of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as groups that range from progressive to conservative. There's strong public support in Pennsylvania for criminal justice reform and I still believe that's the direction we are headed in the long run,” Harris said.

Videos of Harris and other PLBC members who spoke out against the bill will be posted at www.pahouse.com/plbc and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9291D608B46ADCD1.