An extraordinary pair of remedies in this bill warrant highlighting.
Two transfers of funds from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund are authorized, pursuant to recommendations made by the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice.
The first makes good on the remainder of the restitution legally owing to the victims of juvenile crime in Luzerne County. Expungement of the records is the right thing to do for the juveniles wrongly adjudicated and detained. But that action has an unfortunate and unanticipated consequence. Erasing the records also erases the valid restitution awards due the original crime victims.
Pennsylvania must not remedy one set of injustices by inflicting another, no matter how inadvertent that result. The cost of meeting these obligations could be as low as $300,000. This does not work to the detriment of crime victims elsewhere.
When this matter was debated in the House, several detractors contended this approach was unconstitutional. To put it politely, that is beyond far-fetched. Remember, each caucus picked a highly qualified individual to serve on the Commission. The top legal and professional talent in this Commonwealth contributed a great deal of time investigating corruption and developing solutions to bolster juvenile justice. They surely did not recommend something that is unconstitutional.
The second transfer would provide $1 million for county grants for victims of juvenile offenders, replacing funds lost to budget reductions. At a time when there is a starkly demonstrated need to upgrade juvenile justice administration, services, and oversight, we must not allow our budgetary distress to delay important and responsible steps.
These are the first of the recommendations made by the Interbranch Commission to be acted upon and approved. For the sake of fairness and the cause of justice, they must not be the last.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson