Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing / PA Traffic Deaths in Decline

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Apr 19, 2017 8:00 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, April 20, 2017:

Legislation that resurrects mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug and violent crimes is being considered at the state capitol.  The proposals are currently before the House Judiciary Committee.  Mandatory minimum sentences were first introduced in the 80's and 90's to combat a crime wave when crack cocaine was at its height.   But critics then and now argue they restrict judges' discretion and increase prison populations and costs.

The current bills, introduced by Republican Representative Todd Stephens of Montgomery County, would enforce mandatory sentencing for specific drug crimes and violent crimes and crimes committed against the elderly and young children.  Stephens touted the bills as key weapons in fighting the opioid crisis, telling The Morning Call: "We are investing a lot of money in [this] opioid epidemic.  Part of that equation has to be cutting off the supply."

Opponents, like Democratic Allegheny County Representative Jake Wheatly predict this could fuel a prison crisis, saying the bills could result in "an epidemic of people going to jail."

Representative Stephens and Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan appear on Thursday's Smart Talk to discuss the merits of reinstating mandatory minimum sentencing provisions. Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel and Kevin Ring, President of Families against Mandatory Minimums talk about their objections to mandatory minimum laws.

Pennsylvania set a record low for the number of traffic deaths last year.  The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation released 2016 statistics this week that indicate 1,188 fatalities were recorded on Pennsylvania roads last year - the least since records began being kept in 1928..

"Our biggest priority is to keep the public safe through innovation, roadway improvements, and educational outreach," Governor Wolf said. "As fatality numbers continue to trend downward, we still need to change driver behavior, keeping in mind that each person killed in a crash is a member of someone's family."

PennDOT has been promoting traffic safety with their Strategic Highway Safety Plan, investment in safety improvement programs and new methods of recording and studying crash data.   Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT's press secretary will join Smart Talk to discuss these programs and how they are facilitating safer driving.

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clockwise from top left: PA Rep. Todd Stephens; Chester County DA Tom Hogan; Kevin Ring, President - Families Against Mandatory Minimums; PA Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel


- When mandatory minimums were first established it was thought to be a good idea now years later we come to find out that we were not able to arrest our way out of this problem, so what is different now???                                                                                                                    - Paul

- Signed edict stroke of pen to give law chain of command

All drug money confiscated in raids.

Supposedly  for training....but
It puts the police in cohoots
With dealers.

Why do you think police need years to surveillance of drug groups????              - Edward

- Mandatory minimums historically have been applied in a racially discriminatory manner. Do your guests deny that in the 90s the minimums applied to crack offenses (primarily used in poor minority communities) were many multiples of the minimums for powder cocaine used by affluent whites?    - Michael

- I'm concerned about what I'm hearing. I understand for violent crimes. However the drug epidemic is not caused by the dealers. It is caused by the addicts who are not receiving the necessary treatment because they only want to give them 21 to 28 days inpatient treatment when they really need 6 to 18 months. Is this not a basic law of supply and demand? As far as the urban minority communities they have been locked out of regular jobs due to racial discrimination and turn to Crime as a means of making a living. It seems to me that since the drug epidemic has hit the white middle class community now everyone is really up in arms. By the way I am a recovering addict almost 30 years and I'm also White and this is what I have seen.                                                                                      - Victoria

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