Why is the House Judiciary Committee attacking prisoners and their families?
On June 27th, the PA House Judiciary Committee voted to advance a package of six anti-prisoner bills designed to leverage additional financial penalties against incarcerated people and people facing criminal charges.
Rep. Todd Stephens wants to deduct 25% of a prisoner’s wages (which are as low as 19₵/hr) and 75% of all money sent to them by family and friends, and direct that money towards any fees and costs that person owes. This means a family member would have to pay $200 for a $50 phone card to keep in touch with a loved one in prison. (HB2386)
Rep. Kurt Masser wants to significantly increase the minimum penalty cost for a person who is convicted of a crime or is placed in a diversionary program from $60 to $110. People who are incarcerated are required to pay this money before they are eligible for parole. Inability to pay means people are kept in prison for months or even years after they would otherwise be released (at a huge cost to themselves and the state). (HB2134)
Other bills propose diverting people’s tax refunds to pay court debts (HB2382, introduced by Rep. Kula); garnishing wages to pay court debts (HB2383, Rep. Toepel); making it easier for counties to collect court debts using collections agencies (HB2384, Rep. Costa); and diverting bail money to pay any owed costs and fines (HB2385, Rep. Delozier).
If passed, this legislation would make conditions worse for people in prison, punish their families and communities, and worsen the impact of mass incarceration in Pennsylvania. These bills do nothing to help people who have been harmed by violence, who would be better served by community-based mediation mental health care, and other needed social services.
Call your legislators and tell them to oppose these bills!
Find contact information for your legislators at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/
And call the House Judiciary Chairs:
Rep. Ron Marsico (Majority Chair) - (717) 783-2014
Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (Minority Chair) - (717) 787-3525