by Julian Heicklen

In Pennsylvania, if a convict is sentenced to prison, he is assigned a minimum and a maximum sentence. By law, the minimum sentence is not to exceed 1/2 the maximum sentence. If the convict makes good progress toward rehabilitation, he is to be released at or near his minimum sentence. If he does not make good progress, he serves more of his sentence up to the maximum.

In a letter dated January 10, 1997, Laurie Robinson of the Office of Justice Programs, Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Washington, DC wrote to Executive Director James Thomas of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). The letter said in part: "I'm pleased to inform you I have approved a supplemental grant award to the PCCD under fiscal year 1996 Violent Offender and Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive Grant Program. The grant amount is $10,536,696 based on your state's documentation to the yearly increases in Part I violent offenders arrested, sentenced to prison, and/or serving longer periods of confinement and in meeting program requirements that persons convicted of a Part I violent crime serve not less than 85% of the sentence imposed. To date your state received $11,785,149 through the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in Sentencing Incentive Grant Program created under Title II, Subtitle A of the Crime Act as amendedÉ"

Federal grants to the states are no longer based on public safety or on the success of the states' programs to rehabilitate offenders, but on how many people can be sent to prison for longer periods of time. In effect, the federal government is rewarding failure to rehabilitate, because the longer time a convict serves, the less rehabilitated he is. Moreover, the federal grant program is nullifying Pennsylvania state law.