Criminal Justice Reform -The Right Thing to Do
1/2/2020
I am a conservative, white Republican lawmaker from a predominantly white, conservative Republican district. I won my election to serve the 93rd District because I reflect the views of those who voted for me. I am pro-business, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-law-enforcement and by no means soft on crime. I support life imprisonment for violent murderers, rapists, and child abusers and the death penalty for the worst of those offenders.

So why travel frequently to Philadelphia (as I did in 2019) to work with black Democratic colleagues on the issue of criminal justice reform? Because it is a critical issue which I believe should matter to all of us.

While 65% of voters in the 93rd District supported me at the polls, 35% did not. I may not always agree with that 35%, but I still represent them. In this divisive political environment, it is my job to work in a civilized, bipartisan manner. Criminal justice reform affords us that opportunity but isn’t your typical feel good bipartisan topic. Those issues are more common than you might expect and typically enjoy widespread support with little effort required to be agreed upon. Criminal justice reform is unique in that it has supporters and opponents all over the political spectrum, from the most liberal to the most conservative. This is common ground that will not be easily achieved but I feel is worth fighting for.

I’m one of four prime sponsors on a probation reform bill authored by Democrat Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia and Cumberland County Republican Rep. Sheryl Delozier. House Bill 1555 would shorten probation times and reduce recidivism for individuals who are on the right track. It saves taxpayer dollars by reducing unnecessary jail time and frees probation and other law enforcement resources to focus on more problematic convicts. In other words, it allows us to be tougher on more serious offenders, while rewarding more deserving ones.

I’m also working with Philadelphia Democrat Rep. Morgan Cephas on a soon-to-be-released bill that addresses dignity for incarcerated women. This is about recognizing the unique needs of female inmates, particularly pregnant women and mothers. While they certainly need to serve time for their offenses, doing everything we reasonably can to minimize the impact on their families and children benefits all of society. These are our mothers, sisters, and daughters and we need to treat them as such. I’ve also begun working locally to support re-entry programs for released convicts, as well as the Group Violence Initiative led by District Attorney Dave Sunday, York Mayor Michael Helfrich and other community leaders.

But bipartisanship in and of itself is not a reason to support something. So why do I care and why should you? My personal opinion is rooted in my status as a businessman, an American and a Christian.

From a business perspective, I recognize the skilled workforce shortage is the biggest threat to our local economy, and human capital is our most valuable resource. We need to do everything possible to ensure that low-risk offenders who have served their time and are doing the right things return to the workforce, rather than to prison.

As an American, I cherish living in a land of opportunity and second chances where all can succeed. I believe we need to afford that opportunity to those who have earned it and concentrate our law enforcement resources on those who have not.

Finally, as a Christian, I recognize EVERYONE’S – even my own - need for redemption. Above all else, I support criminal justice reform because it is the right thing to do. Regardless of whether or not someone voted for me, whether we agree or disagree, all constituents want me to do the right thing. Criminal justice reform is the right thing.

From a political standpoint, I find it unacceptable that the Republican Party routinely attracts no more than 7-8% of the black vote. This is not only bad for our party, but bad for the black community. While we routinely ignore these voters, Democrats routinely take them for granted. I believe we are going to see that change, thanks to record low minority unemployment and President Trump having signed landmark criminal justice reform legislation. Frankly, change is incumbent on Republicans like me to engage the minority community in and outside our districts to promote our accomplishments, share our vision of freedom and prosperity for all, in order to proactively earn their support….because it’s the right thing to do.

Representative Mike Jones
93rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Scott Little
717.260.6137
slittle@pahousegop.com
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