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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: October 4, 2018 07:42 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Legislative Demographic Impact Statements
In the near future, I will be introducing companion legislation to Senator Hughes SB 206, giving legislators the ability to request that the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing prepare a demographic impact statement for any legislative measure that would amend the Crimes Code or Judicial Code prior to its final consideration by the Senate or House of Representatives.

Demographic impact statements are a tool for lawmakers to evaluate potential disparities of proposed legislation prior to adoption and implementation in order to provide an opportunity for policymakers to consider alternative approaches that do not exacerbate disparities. Similar to fiscal impact statements, they assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications. Iowa, Connecticut, and Oregon have passed similar laws for the preparation and consideration of impact statements, while a number of other states have begun to examine similar proposals.

According to the Sentencing Project, African-Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at more than five times the rate of White men and women and, in Pennsylvania, at least 1 in 20 adult African-American men are in prison.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania not only has the second highest rate of Latinx imprisonment in the nation behind Arizona, the Commonwealth’s rate of Latinx imprisonment in relation to the rate of White imprisonment is more than double the national average. Lastly, most youth who have been through the Department of Juvenile Justice come from neighborhoods where 87 percent of families live below the poverty line. It’s a combination of both socioeconomic disadvantage and race that affects a youth’s probability of ending up with a strict sentence.

While Pennsylvania has had significant success with decreasing the Commonwealth’s prison population in recent years, truly meaningful reform cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of demographic disparities in our criminal justice system, and focused attention on reduction of those disparities.

It is time we recognize that there is a cost, both financial and moral, to maintaining these disparities in our prison system.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this very important legislation.

Introduced as HB2735