Pennsylvania has made history by being the world’s first true penitentiary, mainly due to its civilized prison cells, its structural edifice, and its groundbreaking facilities.
This was constructed in about the same time as the rest of the US states are struggling with their own justice systems. It was the Bureau of Corrections that initiated this, as they saw prison problems fast arising. With their further investigation, they were able to come up with a wholly improved correctional system. This is championed by the retired Army Major General Jacob L.
Devers. This pioneering achievement leads to the development of other U.S. State’s penitentiary systems.
And as regards to Pennsylvania’s penal system, it was during the late 1600 that the death penalty in the state is commonly served through hanging or as referred to as the gallows. And as expected, this practice is widely adapted by most of the American States. Most of these hangings are actually done open to the public.In 1834, it was the State of Pennsylvania that became the first one to eradicate the idea of public execution. It was shortly legislated that the death penalty sentence was to be done per county and within the confines of its respective county jails. And this had effectively continued on for the next 80 years. By 1913, death by hanging is soon replaced by the electric chair. The chair was used until 1962, and it again has become a widely accepted method of carrying out death penalty throughout America.
But by 1990, the electric chair was then replaced by the lethal injection process, which, until currently, is perceived as the most humane way of execution. The then governor, Robert P. Casey, made this feat possible. He was the one who signed the legislation to aptly change Pennsylvania’s mode of execution.
But it was earlier in 1982 that lethal injection was first introduced and used in the US, courtesy of the state of Texas.Prison Population and FacilitiesThere are a total of 36 primary state federal adult prisons located within Pennsylvania, nine of which are situated in the 4 Democrat State Senate Districts while the rest are in the 15 Republican State Senate Districts. And right now, there is total of 43,206 prisoners in all its prison cells, which, consequently, has an operating bed capacity of only 38,499. Therefore, given the statistics, the state has an overall percentage capacity of 112%, which is over its limit. Out of the total number of prisoners, about 34,000 of them are in regular prison cells, while 2,465 are inside restricted housing areas. There are 124 inmates under the custody of the Mental Health Unit, and some 1,349, on the other hand, are under Therapeutic Community. There are also about 2,979 prisoners who are listed under the Diagnostic Classification Unit.
1,482 are in the Special Needs Unit and 144 are under the Infirmary.IssuesThe State of Pennsylvania is now looking to reduce its minority overrepresentation statistics in its juvenile justice system. And this is most achieved by evaluating each minority overrepresentation case and by devising a certain program to counter it.And in order for the State to be consistent its sentencing procedures, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing is established. This is the main organization that comes out with accurate sentencing guidelines and information. Its main goal is to create an unfailing and lucid sentencing policy.
Culpability is determined by the defendant’s mental ability to commit a crime; and this concept is well in use in Pennsylvania. It is but a requirement of proof for the prosecution that a certain mental state of the committing a crime is attained, should it be presented in court.Pennsylvania protects a defendant who cannot stand trial as well. This is what competency to stand trial is all about. It is a violation of a person’s right if he is asked to go into trial even if he is not capable of it, either mentally or physically, as deemed by the court.
These issues, namely minority overrepresentation, arbitrary and discriminatory sentencing, competency and culpability, are the most debated, the most studied, and the most written about. Every state is facing these legal dilemmas. The State of Pennsylvania has its own share of minority overrepresentation with its juvenile cases, as well as its racial ones. And this goes true for arbitrary and discriminatory sentencing procedures as well. But the bottom line is that these issues are well taken cared of by the individual programs specifically made for each by the State of Pennsylvania.Correction Officers and TrainingCurrently, Jeffrey A. Beard is the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. He was appointed by Gov.
Tom Ridge in December of 2000. He has years of experience in criminal justice and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He also has both masters and doctorate degrees in counseling which are all gained from the Pennsylvania State University.Reporting to him directly is Executive Deputy Secretary John S. Shaffer. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration, gained from the University of Pittsburgh. He has 28 years of experience as a counselor, a litigation project director, and a deputy superintended for facilities management, among others.
He had also previously served as a warden in his career.Under them are Deputy Secretary William Stickman of the Western Region and Donald Vaughn of the Eastern Region. William D. Sprenkle is the Deputy Secretary for Administration while the position of Deputy Secretary Specialized Facilities and Programs is currently vacant at the moment.Elizabethtown houses the Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections training academy.
Trainings for all employees, prison wardens, and prison police are all conducted within the institution. And just like the Specialized Facilities and Programs, the Director for the Training Academy is yet to be named.Death Row and Constitutional ConsiderationsIn Pennsylvania, death penalty can only be affected in cases where the defendant is found guilty of a first-degree murder. A separate hearing is conducted in instances where there could be either aggravating or mitigating circumstances could arise following the case. If it happens that at least one of the 10 aggravating circumstances as presumed by the law exists, and none of the mitigating factors are deemed present, the death penalty sentence also applies.
The mitigating factors could well determine one’s ability to escape death penalty or not. The mitigating factors are as follows: (a) The defendant has no significant previous record; (b) The defendant has extreme mental or emotional disturbance; (c) The defendant was simply a minor participant of the crime; (d) And the defendant was a considered a youth at the time of the crime. It is also important to note that different states have different take on these said factors.To date, Pennsylvania has a total of 223 people who has been executed since death penalty was reinstated. Of the count, 218 were men and 5 are women, 136 of who are Blacks.
The rest are White, Hispanic, or Asian.Pennsylvania has a current number of 219 people on the death row. It is the former governor, Tom Ridge, who signed 45 of these death warrants.
This is a considerably large number, compared to the other states, which have death row numbers less than a hundred. And it is also noted that Pennsylvania has the most disproportionate death row data across the continent. Of the 219 death row inmates, 149 are African-American.ConclusionPennsylvania has its own strong structure of a correctional system. Basing from its history, Pennsylvania was long committed to serve the public, both in protecting its safety and livelihood from people who could take it from them, to the very people who would.
Pennsylvania evidently likes to foster life, both within the penitentiary units and outside of it. The Pennsylvanian correctional system upholds truth and justice, just by looking at the very formation and the managing powers behind the institution.People of Pennsylvania should be satisfied that its government is very bent on serving them fully through a straight, a satisfactory, and a performing justice system, which is considered one of its kind, not only here in the U.S.
but to the rest of the world.