Even though the rate of incarceration has decreased slightly in the past decade in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States, many advocates for justice reform believe more needs to be done. The First Step Act, which was passed into law in 2018, is designed to further lower incarceration rates by reducing sentences for nonviolent offenders. Unfortunately, this act only impacts certain federal crimes, which represent a small portion of the overall prison population.
One way to further reduce the incarceration rate is to consider less harsh sentences for violent offenders. Perpetrators of violent crimes are often thought to be a threat to the community, but this is not always the case. Some crimes labeled as violent, such as simple assault, may not involve any physical harm at all. By using risk assessment tools, courts can decide whether a defendant is an actual threat and pass a sentence accordingly.
In order for the public to accept this kind of justice reform, new laws will probably need to take into account both the problems of mass incarceration and public safety. Community programs that can change the behavior of offenders may help the convicted integrate with society safely without the need for a prison sentence. Some of these programs include cognitive behavioral therapy and restorative justice.
Despite recent reforms to the justice system, defendants can face long prison sentences for many crimes. That’s why it’s important for the accused to get representation from a criminal defense attorney. It’s the responsibility of an attorney to advocate for their client’s best interests in all situations. In some cases, an attorney might recommend that their client negotiate a plea agreement for a reduced sentence. In other cases, going to trial may be the best option.