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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: August 23, 2021 02:56 PM
From: Representative Francis X. Ryan
To: All House members
Subject: Amend Title 18 (Crimes Code) to Create the Offense of Child Torture
In the near future, I intend to introduce legislation that amends Title 18 (Crimes Code) to create the offense of child torture.

During the last two decades, child torture has been recognized as a severe and continuous form of child abuse by the medical and legal community throughout the country. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of just fourteen states that does not have a child torture statute. Although Pennsylvania law prohibits physically harming a child, gaps exist in situations where a child experiences only mental trauma or the torture does not result in serious bodily injury to the child. Recently, three individuals were arrested and charged in Schuylkill County after an investigation alleged they had locked multiple children in an attic for extended periods of time, physically abused and starved them and forced them to use buckets to go to the bathroom.

The new offense of child torture would be invoked when a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly tortures a child under the age of 18 who is within their custody or control. Torture is defined as a course of conduct that includes at least one of a detailed list of common acts present in torture cases. This list includes physically or sexually abusing a child, restraining or confining the child in an unreasonable manner, restricting basic and necessary bodily functions, starving the child or terrorizing the child for the purposes of causing significant emotional distress.

A person convicted under this new offense commits a third-degree felony if the victim does not suffer bodily injury which is punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $15,000. If the victim suffers bodily injury, the offense is a first-degree felony which is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

This legislation will help remedy inadequacies in Pennsylvania’s Crime Code related to child torture and ensure consistency with the overwhelming majority of other states. Most importantly, it will sufficiently punish those individuals who engage in the most severe and reprehensible form of child abuse.
Please join me in cosponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1836