Hard time is softer for some
The downsizing is unsettling.
How will people feel secure? Is there a way to guarantee our security if so many return to civilian life at once?
No, I'm not referring to the proposed Department of Defense reductions that would shrink the Army to its smallest size since World War II. I can see why you'd think that.
I'm referring to federal and state prisons dramatically downsizing the number of incarcerated former state lawmakers, before many of the convicts serve minimum sentences.
The early releases probably were inevitable. The people jailed after multiple public corruption probes several years ago were powerful. Did you really expect them to languish behind bars like far less well-connected inmates who never donned a John Varvatos suit?
Former Democratic state Sen. Vince Fumo of Philadelphia was the first to be sprung. Released in January, he served a mere 55 months following his 2009 federal conviction on an astounding 137 corruption counts.
Former Republican state Sen. Jane Orie of McCandless was next, trading her jail jumpsuit for more fashionable duds on Feb. 10. She got off lightly, serving 20 months of a 2½-to-10 year sentence for using her legislative staff for campaign purposes.
Next up: former House Speaker John Perzel of Philadelphia, who bilked taxpayers out of $10 million for computers and programs to aid Republicans. He served 24 months of a 2½-to-5 year sentence before his release on Thursday.
Former House Speaker Bill DeWeese of Greene County, who used public resources for campaign purposes, was given the same sentence as Perzel. He's scheduled to be released on March 28, more than six months prior to completing the minimum.
Orie, Perzel and DeWeese qualified for early release under a special state Department of Corrections program. It reduces minimum sentences for select nonviolent offenders whose misbehavior in prison is confined to cheating on crossword puzzles.
Former state Senate leader Robert Mellow of Lackawanna County, who in 2012 pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, will leave prison this month. He will have served 12 months of his 14-month federal sentence, which constitutes cruel and unusual punishment compared to the early bird sentence specials enjoyed by Orie, Perzel and DeWeese.
When Mellow is released, it will be at least another year before two other former lawmakers snared in the corruption probes — Mike Veon of Beaver County and Brett Feese of Lycoming County — leave the lockup.
Still, the floodgates have opened. Pennsylvanians whose trust was betrayed are ankle-deep in the detritus of the supposedly paid debts to society by these white-collar criminals.
Consider the ruined shoes and sludge-stained pants their parting gifts to you.
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Linebacker Timmons hoping for contract extension
- Stop neighbors from stealing your Internet
- Chief justice revokes Feudale’s senior judge status
- Settlements in the Sandusky scandal up to nearly $93 million for Penn State
- 5 hospitalized when family’s SUV runs off Route 51 in Rostraver
- Steelers plan to use smart pass rush against Seattle QB Wilson
- Penguins 4th line is showing promise
- 5 injured in Route 51 crash in Rostraver
- School lunch group hopes to revise rules it calls impractical, too restrictive
- Police arrest man in Homestead bank robbery
- Pittsburgh police deliver 2,500 Thanksgiving meals through program