Retiring Greenleaf seeks atonement, pushes for criminal justice reform as his final farewell

Pat Loeb
December 25, 2018 - 4:00 am
Retiring Pa. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf pushes criminal justice reform, speaking to Philadelphia City Council.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania Sen. Stewart Greenleaf ends a 42-year career in the state legislature this month, but he's hoping to have an influence on the General Assembly's upcoming term. 

The Montgomery County Republican was an assistant district attorney in the 1970s, and he said he came into office back then determined to be tough on crime.

"I was going in the wrong direction," he admitted. "I had my road to Damascus experience — thank God. He gives us all second chances, right?"

Greenleaf spoke in City Council recently in honor of his retirement. He recalled promoting bills, early on, for mandatory minimum sentences and more jails.

"This idea — the tougher you get, the safer we are — and it's just the opposite," he said.

Greenleaf said when the legislature began passing reform measures, violent crime went down, recidivism went down, and the state saved millions as the prison population declined.

"And most of these offenders were nonviolent offenders, and we were turning them into tougher prisoners," he added.

He said there is much left to do, but he's confident there's bipartisan support to do it and urged council to keep pressure on the legislature.

"I know it's counterintuitive, but it will work."