Philadelphians are used to working on their own violence issues, usually while complaining about the unhelpfulness of attitudes in Harrisburg, where gun regulations, especially, generally die a quick death. However, the new Speaker of the State Assembly, Denny O'Brien (who comes from the area of Northeast Philadelphia himself) is proposing a cluster of bills to address urban violence
and relieve overcrowded prisons, including increased focus on repeat criminals and alternative approaches to nonviolent offenders.
His legislation establishes, for the first time, probation and parole guidelines for when inmates should be released. It allows judges to grant reduced jail time for those successfully completing job training or drug and alcohol programs while in prison.
O'Brien also seeks to ease Philly's prison overcrowding by sending anyone sentenced to two-to-five years to state prison. He notes Gov. Rendell's budget includes state prison expansions to cover the change.
A promising new piece of the corrections puzzle, that could complement other local efforts. Will be interesting to see how it does in the legislature in the next few weeks.