The Pennsylvania General Assembly is still in session. Which means that they are still in the process of deciding new proposals and law changes. There is one bill on the docket that could mean a world of change for Pennsylvanians facing drug charges.

The current penalties can be steep

Pennsylvania has a wide range of penalties for drug possession. Depending on the substance and the situation, consequences can range from:

  • Fines between $500 and $250,000
  • Jail time from one month to 15 years

Marijuana possession is on the lower end of these penalties. That charge usually results in the $500 fine and little to no jail time. Most other drugs, from cocaine to heroin, are the ones that lead to higher costs.

Rehabilitation over incarceration

More often than not, the people facing these charges also struggle with addiction. It is often because of the addiction that people deal with these charges in the first place. And sentencing them to prison does not often help the situation. In fact, it usually increases the chances that they will face another offense and arrest in the future.

But the state has different sentencing programs that do not include prison. They just are not used.

According to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, a new bill is looking to change that. Senate Bill 501 seeks to help individuals struggling with drug or alcohol addiction to avoid prison sentences altogether. Instead, they would allow people to:

  • Serve most of their sentence in rehabilitative treatment centers
  • Remain in their communities with a support system
  • Attend out-patient treatment before release

The article states that the Department of Corrections would still monitor the person for a while after their release. But overall, a focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment would be beneficial for individuals facing drug charges and the state as a whole.

Will the Bill pass?

A Senate committee approved Senate Bill 501. And many lawmakers favor the Bill’s addition to the campaign for criminal justice reform. So, it seems likely that it will become law. However, the General Assembly has yet to vote on it in this session as a whole unit.