The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control

By Lisa L. Miller | Go to book overview

Four
INTEREST GROUPS AND CRIME POLITICS
AT THE STATE LEVEL

The fact of the matter is, you know, this is a system geared towards
responding to lobbyists who make PAC contributions, lobbyists who
take people out to dinners…. I used to joke with [staff member] here
that some of the advocacy groups that we represent that are lower
income —we would be better off raising money and letting them take
some of these folks out to Tavern on the Hill than to [have them] come
in here and be protesters du jour. That would actually probably have a
better impact, assuming some of them would be willing to go and it is
a sad commentary but I don’t think Pennsylvania is any different than
anywhere else, including the Congressional level.

—Democratic senator, Pennsylvania General Assembly

In May 1989, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives held a public hearing in Philadelphia’s City Hall on proposed antidrug legislation; 21 witnesses were called to offer their perspectives on drug addiction, drug dealing, and the devastating impact of the illegal drug market. Half of these witnesses came from citizen organizations, and many represented broad citizen groups, including the Southwest Germantown Block Group, the Ivy Hill Upsal Neighbors, and Kensington Action Now.1

What is striking about this hearing is not that it offers a glimpse of state crime policy process in action but that it is utterly anomalous. Seven different broad citizen organizations were represented at this hearing; an exhaustive analysis of over 300 hearings on crime and justice in Pennsylvania over 40 years reveals that such representation is highly unusual. In fact, almost half of the hearings on crime and justice in the state

-85-

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