The statehouse-to-prison pipeline is the practice of introducing bills that create new crimes, enhance existing penalties, and/or expand current laws that result in more people going to prison or jail.

Over the last four decades, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has become a bipartisan offense factory, churning out hundreds of new bills each legislative session that seek to add new crimes and penalties to our already bloated criminal code. This unrelenting expansion diverts power away from judges and into the hands of prosecutors and police, contributing to ever-greater incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. Despite the multi-billion dollar price tag to fund our mass incarceration system, legislators feverishly file and support bills that mete out more punishment and harsher penalties. This is the statehouse-to-prison pipeline.

None of these bills make us any safer. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, more law is less justice.

This is our third More Law, Less Justice legislative session report. Since we began analyzing session activity during the 2017-2018 session, legislators have steadily increased the number of statehouse-to-prison pipeline bills filed and enacted, adding 10 new sentencing enhancements, 28 expanded offense definitions, 52 new offenses or suboffenses, and 106 new criminal penalties to Pennsylvania law.

    2021-2022 Legislative Session

    During the 2021-2022 legislative session, a total of 308 statehouse-to-prison pipeline bills were introduced. Of the 308 pipeline bills introduced, 63 received consideration. In other words, 20% of all pipeline bills were considered this session.

    Of those 308 bills, a total of 18 pipeline bills were enacted—all with bipartisan support. These 18 bills expanded PA criminal law by:

    • Adding 8 new sentencing enhancements
    • Expanding 12 offense definitions
    • Creating 25 new criminal offenses or suboffenses
    • Creating 50 new criminal penalties

    Ending Pennsylvania’s public policy of mass incarceration begins with the state legislature. Legislators must stop the continuous pipeline of unneceesary and duplicative bills that continue to put more and more people behind bars.

    For a closer look at the data, visit:

    2021-2022 Pipeline bill database

    Data Graphics: More Law, Less Justice 2021-2022

    MLLJ 2021-2022 | Pipeline definition
    Pipeline definition

    How we define the statehouse-to-prison pipeline.

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