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.
This holiday season marks the six-month anniversary of the historic Coal Township Dining Hall Boycott, when 1,300 prisoners at SCI Coal Township refused to go to the dining hall for a week to protest food cutbacks and denials of their basic human rights. At the end of the boycott, prisoners released a list of 22 demands.
On November 4, people across the state went to the polls to elect Pennsylvania's next Governor. Incumbent Republican Governor Tom Corbett was defeated by Democratic candidate Tom Wolf. Corbett’s defeat was a referendum on his failed policies.
In the summer issue of our newsletter, we let you know about a package of anti-prisoner bills that had recently passed through the House Judiciary committee. The worst of these bills (HB2386) was introduced by Montgomery County Representative Todd Stephens and proposed taking 25 percent of a prisoner’s wages and 75 percent of all deposits into personal accounts to be deducted for any fees, costs, and restitution that person owes.
On August 28th, people concerned about the fate of individuals sentenced to Life Without Parole gathered at the Capitol in Harrisburg and held a Rally to Restore Meaningful Commutation. The event was largely organized by Let’s Get Free: the Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee, and supported by Decarcerate PA, New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, Human Rights Coalition, and Fight for Lifers West, among other organizations.
So far, gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf has had little to say about how he’d address Pennsylvania’s mass incarceration crisis. With less than a week remaining before the election, over 51,000 people in prison and a $2 billion+ corrections budget, it is past time that Wolf tells us where he stands on mass incarceration.
Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. Last week, PA Representative Mike Vereb introduced a bill (HB2533) called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.”