November 20 Hot Topics Luncheon: A Lawyer’s Views on Criminal Justice Reform

On Friday, November 20th,  I attended the Hot Topics luncheon at the Media Municipal Community Center. The speaker was Jennifer Levy-Tatum, Chester County LWV. Ms. Levy-Tatum’s presentation was  ‘ A Lawyer’s Views on Criminal Justice Reform’.  It was a bird’s eye view of justice in the United States the oft extreme disparity for a single crime, from state to state. That crime in Pennsylvania may be months or a few years where as that same crime may be 20 years in Georgia.  Ergo,  inequality resides between states and sometimes within states themselves. What may be accepted on a county level is not at a state level. How prisoners are treated at the county level versus the state is often extreme.

At the state level, prisoners are underrepresented due to the overload on the defenders. The prosecutor may “load” the deck against the prisoner, forcing the prison to plea bargain. This is not in the prisoner’s best interests, especially if the prisoner is innocent.

Timeliness of trial is another misnomer. A Prisoner may fester in jail for a matter of years before his or her trial reaches the court.

State prisons are also a money maker for the state. The prisoner must pay for such items as toothbrushes, deodorant, underwear, etc.

Bail is another issue. If the prisoner has no money, they remain in prison instead of being out on bail.

The cost of incarceration is over $50,000 per prisoner.

There’s much more. To learn more, join the Chester County Criminal Justice committee. You may learn what some state and local prisons are doing to rehabilitate prisoners and close the revolving door

Reported by Sarah Caspar 


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