The Interbranch Commission implements recommendations from the Report of The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial, and Gender Bias in The Justice System. View the Report
Lead by Khadija T. Diggs, Esq., the Criminal Justice Committee is focusing on five primary initiatives, including reducing disparities in the imposition of the death penalty, reforming the Commonwealth’s adult and juvenile indigent defense systems, advocating for eliminating sentences of life without parole for juveniles in Pennsylvania, implementing model procedures for the expungement of juvenile records, and educating law students and new lawyers on student loan forgiveness for public interest attorneys.
In support of its death penalty initiative, the Committee has contracted with Pennsylvania State University to conduct a statewide study to determine if racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic status influences the administration of the death penalty. The study, now in its data collection phase, is expected to be completed within eighteen months. The Falk Foundation recently approved a matching grant of $60,000 in support of the study and the Interbranch Commission provided additional funding in the amount of $58,000. The Commission is seeking an additional $100,000 in grants to complete the study.
The Committee continues to play an active role in the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission’s study of the Commonwealth’s indigent defense system. Upon completion of the final report, the Committee will begin working on legislation to implement the recommended reforms. The Committee is also actively involved in efforts to implement recommendations from the Interbranch Commission for Juvenile Justice’s Report for reforming the juvenile indigent defense system. See the link to the Report, at right, under the list of Committee members.
Additionally, working closely with a panel of experts and practitioners in juvenile law, the Committee drafted a model procedure for the expungement of juvenile records. The procedure has been incorporated into a pilot program establishing Centers for Juvenile Law Excellence in five counties across the Commonwealth. The Committee is also conducting research on the issue of sentencing juveniles as young as 14 years of age to life without parole. Upon completion of its examination, the Committee will embark on advocacy efforts in support of legislation prohibiting such sentences.
Finally, while actively promoting the federal program that allows for student loan forgiveness for public interest attorneys, the Committee continues to work toward the establishment of a similar statewide program for public defenders.
The Committee’s primary initiatives are based on the Final Report of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial, and Gender Bias in the Justice System. For detailed information on the study’s findings and the initiatives, as related to criminal justice, please see Chapters Four, Five, Six, and Thirteen of the Report.