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10/24/2020 08:39 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20190&cosponId=27719
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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 14, 2019 03:09 PM
From: Representative Dan L. Miller
To: All House members
Subject: Increasing Training Requirements for District Judges in Relation to Indigent, Adolescent, Mental Health, Disability and Addiction Defendants
 
A significant number of Pennsylvanians are jailed each year because they are unable to pay their court costs and fines. Some 200 years ago, the United States formally abolished the use of debtors’ prisons. Nevertheless, we have recently seen the rise of poor people being incarcerated for failure to pay legal debts they could never hope to afford. Defendants convicted of even minor crimes in Pennsylvania often must pay a host of fines, costs and other fees. When they cannot afford to do that, they spend time in jail until someone comes up with the money – many times in violation of US Supreme Court precedents that forbid governments from locking people up because they are too poor to pay and not because they merely refuse to do so.

Similarly, it has become increasingly obvious that our judges may not be equipped to deal with the current opioid addiction crisis in a manner that results in defendants with substance abuse issues accessing the treatment they need to become more productive members of our society. Many of them also may not have access to adolescent development information or juvenile-specific resources that will help them better assist the youth with whom they interact.

That is why I intend to introduce legislation that requires judges to receive mandatory training that will better enable them to identify indigent defendants who are too poor to pay court costs, fines and fees. My bill will also include training that will give our judges the tools they need to better evaluate juveniles and individuals with substance abuse disorder, mental health and disabilities who appear before them, so that they can provide better options for these individuals.

Help me give our judiciary the tools they need to address these important issues that arise in their courtrooms on a daily basis by co-sponsoring this effort.

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Introduced as HB389