Assoc. Prof. John Rago Appointed to the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission

Associate Professor John Rago was appointed to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing by Chief Justice of The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Thomas G. Saylor. He is the only law professor in the state chosen to serve on the Commission.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing was created by the General Assembly in 1978 for the primary purpose of creating a consistent and rational statewide sentencing policy that would increase sentencing severity for serious crimes and promote fairer and more uniform sentencing practices. The legislation required the Commission to adopt sentencing guidelines that would be "...considered by the sentencing court in determining the appropriate sentence for defendants who plead guilty or nolo contendere to, or who were found guilty of, felonies and misdemeanors" (42 Pa.C.S. §2154).

The guidelines were intended to promote sentencing equity and fairness by providing every judge with a common reference point for sentencing similar offenders convicted of similar crimes.

The Commission develops resentencing guidelines (42 Pa.C.S. §2154.4), state and county parole guidelines (42 Pa.C.S. §2154.5), and state recommitment ranges (42 Pa.C.S. §2154.6). These enhance accountability and transparency and more closely align state and county parole procedures. The Commission collects data and information to systematically monitor and report on conformity to guidelines, advises and consults on policy and practices, and undertakes research and evaluation to determine the effectiveness of guidelines.

Act 15 of 2019, enacted June 29, 2019, amended the Administrative Code of 1929 by providing for the continuation of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing as a legislative agency, modifying the composition and selection of the members of the Commission, and continuing the Commission's powers and duties.

The Act provides that one criminal law professor teaching in the Commonwealth shall be appointed to the Commission by the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Of his appointment Rago said, "The work done by the Commission on sentencing policies and practices is vital on many levels to our criminal justice system. I am honored to serve as a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing by the appointment of Chief Justice Saylor. I very much appreciate Chief Justice Saylor's trust as well as the very generous support I receive from my colleagues here at the Law School and the University."

Rago will serve a term of two years starting October 1, 2019.

In addition to his recent appointment to the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission, Rago is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's (PBI) Suggested Standard Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. He also serves as special counsel to the Allegheny County Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

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