Despite talk of a public health approach to dealing with substance use and addiction, the criminal justice system continues to carry the brunt of the response to the overdose crisis.
Despite efforts to not repeat the incarcerative response of the crack epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s, the number of people charged with possession of illicit drugs in Cumberland County has nearly doubled since 2013, according to court records.
Despite calls to end the decades-old war on drugs, the fight wages on.
One tool in the criminal justice arsenal being used with greater frequency in the face of rising drug overdoses it to treat the cases as homicides.
In Pennsylvania, a person can be charged with drug delivery resulting in death, which is considered a homicide and can carry up to a 40-year prison sentence, for providing drugs to a person who overdoses and dies.
Seventy-seven people were charged with the offense in 2016, according to court records, and if local trends are an indicator, that number will increase this year.
Since 2013, nearly half of all homicide cases in Cumberland County have been for drug delivery resulting in death.
The law has been on the books since 1989, but has undergone changes because of constitutional challenges and was rarely used locally until recently.
Between 2009 and 2011, Cumberland, Perry, Adams and Franklin counties combined prosecuted only two cases, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.
In 2015 alone that number reached six cases and as of Nov. 30, more than 20 cases have been filed this year, according to court records.
The bulk of the cases — 17 — were filed in Franklin County, up from just four cases a year prior, court records show.
In fact, more cases of drug delivery resulting in death have been filed in Franklin County in 2017 than in the eight years prior combined.
District Attorney Matthew Fogal said this was part of a two-part approach to dealing with the overdose epidemic.
“I often describe this current response in terms of the heart and the fist,” Fogal said. “(Drug delivery resulting in death) prosecutions are punitive for drug traffickers, as they should be. That is the fist. But there is also the heart.”
The county has also seen a large uptick in bail amounts for people charged with selling drugs. Median bails rose $25,000 in 2012 to $100,000 in 2016, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.
Median bail for similarly charged people in Cumberland County was $25,000 last year, according to court records.
Franklin County’s jail population has surged to average more than 500 inmates per day, according to Franklin County Prison Board reports. This is more than 200 inmates more than the jail’s rated capacity, causing the county to pay to house inmates at other facilities across the state.
For comparison, about 460 inmates were being housed in Cumberland County Prison on Dec. 1. Cumberland County has a population roughly 50 percent larger than Franklin County and the court system handles roughly 2,000 more cases a year, according to court records.
“An uptick in the amount of prosecutions for (drug delivery resulting in death) has been conversely matched by the time and effort partnering with the treatment community in order to find help for those that want it,” Fogal said.
The county recently began a treatment court for people in the criminal justice system with substance-use disorder, and Fogal said time and resources have been put into finding treatment for those who “want it.”
The treatment court currently handles about 20 people, which is about 0.74 percent of the county’s yearly caseload, according to court records.
“While much must be done in order to combat addiction and the scourge illegal drugs bring to our front doors, our current efforts move us yet closer to understanding the grayness of the line between addiction and crime,” he said.
U.S. Attorney David Freed said prosecutions are a way of holding defendants responsible but are likely not a deterrent to future crime.
“The person who used has died. Prevention would be treatment for that person,” Freed said. “It’s a culpability and punishment thing more than it is a crime prevention down the road.”
At the time of the interview, Freed was the district attorney for Cumberland County.
Proponents of the drug delivery resulting in death law generally argue that the law is aimed at drug traffickers.
A review of more than 200 cases of drug delivery homicides nationwide conducted by Health In Justice, a program run by researchers from Northeastern University, found less than half of the charged cases involved a typical dealer/buyer relationship.
More than half of the cases involved defendants who were caretakers, family members, friends or romantic partners of the person who died, according Health In Justice.
“The calculous that has to be engaged in is, is it a sharing situation or is it a sale situation,” Freed said. “If that’s what we have to do to impact street-level people, I’m OK with that and I understand why somebody else may not be.”
During Freed’s tenure as district attorney, Cumberland County was one of the most aggressive counties in the state in using the charge, averaging about three cases a year between 2013 and 2017.
“What’s the tougher case?” he said. “When it’s a dealer who’s dealing to support a habit … I think depending on the level of habit, we’ve handled that both ways.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro drew a less blurred line when it comes to using the charge.
“If you’re peddling this poison in our communities and someone dies from it, we’re going to charge you to the fullest extent of the law,” Shapiro said when asked about using the charge when two people using drugs share and one person dies. “The Legislature has said and the governor has said that I can charge someone with drug delivery resulting in death.
“We try to use that in the (Attorney General’s) office on bigger dealers and the ones who are dumping this poison in our communities, and we try to be very responsible when we charge,” he said. “We try to charge people with crimes we know we can convict them on, too.”
Shapiro spoke to a room full or reporters in November saying the charge was an “important and effective” tool for his office.
Nearly half of all the cases filed in Franklin County this year involve multiple defendants charged in connection to one death, including one case where three people were charged in connection to a single death, according to court records.
Christmas fun continued Saturday around Carlisle as thousands flocked to two of the area’s popular holiday markets, Christkindlesmarkt and the Market of Curiosities.
About 2,500 shoppers were expected to browse through the Carlisle Barracks Christkindlesmarkt Holiday Crafts Bazaar by day’s end Saturday, said Randy Williams, the event’s sponsorship coordinator. Around 600 visitors tallied during the first three hours. This year’s event was held at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, featuring 95 vendors and sponsors. Proceeds benefit Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWP, for Carlisle Barracks families.
Also on Saturday, the fourth annual Market of Curiosities at the Carlisle Expo Center welcomed around 1,500 visitors during its first two hours, said David Bender, who organizes the event each year with Sarah Taby. Bender and Taby are co-owners of Miss Ruth’s Time Bomb, a retro accessories shop on North Hanover Street in Carlisle. Bender said he hoped to match, if not break last year’s total record-breaking attendance of 2,500 people.
This year’s Market of Curiosities was filled with around 100 vendors offering everything from crafted jewelry, paintings, clothing, glass art, food and craft microbrews. New this year was a children’s open mic session and Circus Stella, a husband-and-wife stunt team and their dogs. Hundreds crowded around to watch the in-house circus performance.
Nearby, Mike Moll, owner of the Molly Pitcher Brewing Company, was selling three tap varieties from his microbrewery on East South Street in Carlisle. This was Moll’s second year vending at the Market of Curiosities, he said.
“This is a great event,” Moll said. “Last year, there was a record-breaking attendance. We’ve had lots of local support today and some new faces ... There’s such a good mix of age groups here and unique crafts you won’t see at any other places.”
Vendor Ben Kishbaugh, owner of Big Hill Ciderworks in Gardners, agreed. “I like the variety (at the Market of Curiosities). You get all kinds of stuff for sale all under one roof,” he said.
Elise Bilbrey, of Camp Hill, said this was the third year she’s come to shop at the Market of Curiosities. So far, she had purchased a bottle of marmalade-flavored Big Hill hard cider. “I come here to try the different brews,” she said. “I come here every year. There’s lots of different vendors, and it’s a good time of the year for buying Christmas gifts.”
Meanwhile at the Christkindlesmarkt, Allen Swainston, of BigAlsCraft, was selling his handmade varieties of sports bottles and lamps, cutting boards, chess and checker boards, and more for the eighth consecutive year. “I’m doing pretty good,” the New Kingstown resident said, noting that his cutting boards were the day’s biggest seller so far.
The day’s biggest seller for “Candle Scentsations by Lizz” were the Smelly Kelly air fresheners comprising of water crystals and scents, said proprietor Lizz Rohrbaugh of Linglestown. Rohrbaugh said she does 32 craft shows each year but likes Christkindlesmarkt “because it’s a nice area and they come out to support me.”
Rhonda Bryner, of Carlisle, visted Christkindlesmarkt for the first time on Saturday, she said. She bought a bow for her puppy’s collar from “One Hook Double Stitch,” owned by Morgan Boyer of Owings Mill, Maryland. This was the third year that Boyer, a Carlisle area native, had come to sell her crafts, with her hand-knit owl hats as the day’s best seller. Last year, Minion hats were the top buy, she said.
Saturday also was the first time for Ainslie Laslie, of Carlisle Barracks, to visit Christkindlesmarkt. Daughter Rebecca, 8, held a new knit elephant, while Katherine, 11, had opted for a “Star Wars” Stuffins. The family came because friends were running vendor booths.
“This is bigger than we expected,” Laslie said. “We’ve been to every corner here.”
The Senate and the House seek to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code but go about it in different ways. With the Senate bill passed Saturday and the House bill passed two weeks ago, congressional Republicans now will work quickly on a compromise measure to send to President Donald Trump by Christmas.
A comparison of the Senate and House bills, each coming in at nearly $1.5 trillion:
Personal income tax rates: Senate bill retains the current number of brackets, seven, but changes them to 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35 and 38.5 percent. Under current law, the top bracket for wealthiest earners is 39.6 percent. The House measure condenses seven brackets to four: 12, 25, 35 and 39.6 percent. Under the Senate bill, the reductions in personal income tax rates are temporary, ending in 2026. They’re permanent in the House bill.
Standard deduction: Used by about 70 percent of U.S. taxpayers, currently $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for married couples. Senate, House bills both double those levels to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples.
Personal exemption: Both bills eliminate the current $4,050 personal exemption.
State and local taxes: Senate, House bills end federal deductions for state and local income and sales taxes, but they allow the deduction for up to $10,000 in property taxes.
Tax credits: Senate doubles per-child tax credit to $2,000. House raises per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600, extends it to families earning up to $230,000. Creates a $300 tax credit for each adult in a family, which expires in 2023. Both bills preserve the adoption tax credit.
Home mortgage interest deduction: Senate retains the current limit for the deduction to interest paid on the first $1 million of the loan. House reduces the limit to $500,000, for new home purchases.
Other deductions: Senate bill preserves deduction for medical expenses not covered by insurance but ends deductions for moving expenses and tax preparation. House eliminates medical expense deduction.
Individual insurance mandate: Senate bill repeals the requirement in Democrat Barack Obama’s health care law that people pay a tax penalty if they don’t purchase health insurance. House bill does not.
Alternative minimum tax: The AMT is aimed at ensuring that higher-earning people pay at least some tax. Senate bill doesn’t repeal it but reduces the number of people who have to pay it. House measure repeals the tax.
Inheritance tax: Currently, when someone dies the estate owes taxes on the value of assets transferred to heirs above $5.5 million for individuals, $11 million for couples. Senate bill doubles those limits but does not repeal the tax. House initially doubles the limits and then repeals the entire tax after 2023.
Corporate taxes: Senate, House bills both cut current 35 percent rate to 20 percent, but Senate has one-year delay in dropping the rate.
Pass-through businesses: Millions of U.S. businesses “pass through” their income to individuals, who then pay personal income tax on those earnings, not corporate tax. Senate bill lets people deduct 23 percent of the earnings and then pay at their personal income tax rate on the remainder. House measure taxes many of the pass-through businesses at 25 percent, plus creates a 9 percent rate for the first $75,000 in earnings for some smaller pass-throughs.
Businesses: Senate, House bills both expand write-offs allowed for companies that buy equipment.
Multinational corporations: Senate, House bills impose a one-time tax on profits that U.S.-based corporations are holding overseas. Senate bill also ends tax advantages for firms moving overseas, and requires corporations to continue paying the business version of the alternative minimum tax. House measure seeks to eliminate tax incentives that encourage some U.S. companies to move overseas.
For many students, pursuing their passions can mean opening them up to new opportunities.
For Hayden Qualls, a senior at Harrisburg Academy, pursuing his passion for the environment has given him the opportunity to travel to new lands.
In July, Qualls traveled to Peru on scholarship to, among other things, help build greenhouses for the local community.
“(I’m probably most proud of) the service part of my Peru trip,” he said. “I know it had such an impact on those people’s lives. They’ll be able to use those greenhouses, they’ll be able to earn money ... through their crop growths, and they’ll just be able to better their lives so much. It’s just something that I feel has had the biggest impact [on] people.”
Despite his love of nature, Qualls said he is not sure he would define himself as an environmentalist.
“I’m not sure how I would define myself,” he said. “I’d just say I’m someone who’s interested in the environment and protecting it. I don’t know what that would fall under.”
Qualls said he’s grown up around nature and has always been an “outdoorsy” person, even from a young age.
“I’ve always just really liked being outside, and I’ve gone hiking with my dad when I was little,” he said. “I guess at camp just spending time with friends outside, it’s always just been a big part of my life. I want to keep it healthy so other people can continue to enjoy it.”
He said his trip to Peru, which included hiking through the Andes Mountains, has helped instill in him his desire to study environmental engineering in college and pursue a career in the field.
Qualls carries a 4.01 GPA while taking advanced-level and college preparatory classes.
He is the son of Karl Qualls, a history professor at Dickinson College, and Gretchen Qualls, a teacher at Harrisburg Academy.
The fact that both of his parents work in education has instilled in Qualls a desire to push himself academically and has given him an appreciation for learning, he said.
“They are not demanding, but they have high expectations,” Qualls said of his parents. “It keeps me on track to maintain and meet those expectations.”
Beyond school work, Qualls is a youth swim instructor at HACC, a member of the National Honor Society and is a member of the Harrisburg Academy swim, Brain Busters and Quiz Bowl teams.
Outside of the environment, Qualls said participating in Brain Busters and Quiz Bowl, where he is the school’s co-captain, are his greatest passions.
“Before I started doing Quiz Bowl here, I would say I didn’t know most of what I know now,” he joked. “It’s just fun to challenge myself with sometimes just obscure facts, sometimes it’s just memorizing authors and works and history dates and people. It’s a challenge.”