A 70-year-old York County man is facing seven years in prison after he allegedly shoplifted a $2.19 candy bar — and the ACLU says the case highlights flaws in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system.
Blaine C. Hildebrand of Jackson Township pocketed a Snickers bar from a West Manchester Township Rutter’s store in January, police said. He is charged with third-degree felony retail theft, which could result in 3½ to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, according to the state crime code.
The punishment doesn’t fit the crime, said ACLU of Pennsylvania criminal justice policy lawyer Nyssa Taylor.
“There is no reason that a 70-year-old man should be facing seven years in jail for stealing a candy bar. And yet that is what our Legislature has continued to do,” Taylor said. “This is one of the things that we have really been pushing the Legislature to change and to stop allowing.”
In other words, retail theft is an automatic third-degree felony if it’s on the third or subsequent offense, regardless of the value of the merchandise taken, according to the statue.
Hildebrand was charged with retail theft in 1993 and 2012, which was why his most recent shoplifting charge was considered a felony, police said.
It isn’t right, but that’s what’s been allowed because of decades of expansion in the state’s crime code, said Taylor, the ACLU attorney.
“Every year we see new crimes being added. We see new charges, grading being increased, the severity of sentences,” she said. “It’s sort of a nonstop train. And this causes so much harm.”
Such punishments for nonviolent offenders not only lead to mass incarceration but are also unfair because they target specific demographics, Taylor said… The Morning Call