The Struggle to Slow Mass Incarceration Movement In PA

September 23, 2013 | Angus Love, Esq. | The Legal Intelligencer

During last year's annual opportunity to pontificate on institutional issues in this respected venue, I mentioned the possibility of groundbreaking legislation in Harrisburg that would address prison overcrowding. The bill, titled SB 100, did pass into law and became Act 122. This year, I will examine the final legislative product and offer my thoughts on its effectiveness and provide context on the struggle to slow the mass incarceration movement in Pennsylvania.

In my capacity as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, I frequently tour our prisons and jails. Recently, I looked out over the recreational yard at the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, Pa., and saw hundreds of predominately young African-American men milling around and participating in several recreational activities. It brought to mind an old joke by Richard Pryor who had gone to a prison and was expecting to see the fruit of our justice system but saw only "just us," meaning a huge number of African-Americans. A similar experience in the Philadelphia Prison System was even more striking as individuals other than African-American were few and far between.

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Advocacy for Prisoners' Rights: Civil Litigation in the Criminal Justice World

Fall 2013 | Angus Love, Esq. | Management Information Exchange Journal

The long trek from arrest to release from confinement or supervision poses some interesting challenges for the civil and criminal legal organizations that represent indigent persons. More and more individuals are caught up in the ever expanding criminal justice system, especially people of color. Currently there are almost seven million persons or 2.9% of the American population under correctional supervision, including 2.5 million people in prisons. In a nation that houses 25% of the world's prison population, the need for legal assistance is enormous. This rapid expansion of the prison population, ongoing since 1980, is unprecedented in our nation's history. Curiously, the expansion occurred at the same time as and at a similar rate to the expansion in our country's income gap.

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