Lawmaker: Sending Shaneen Allen to Prison Would Be a ‘Mistake’
Philadelphia resident Shaneen Allen is a single mother of two with no criminal record, but she is facing a mandatory three-year prison term because last year she was caught with a gun in New Jersey that she's legally allowed to possess in Pennsylvania. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick doesn't think Allen should go to jail as a result of the violation.
"I'm convinced that when we passed this law that we were not looking to put Shaneen Allen in jail," said Bramnick (R-Westfield). "We cannot have a woman without a criminal with two children going to state prison for what I consider a serious mistake."
Under legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) judges would have the option of not sending someone like Allen to prison if the person from out-of-state is caught with a gun in New Jersey and meets three requirements.
"Number one, the individual would have no criminal record. Number two, the individual would have no known association or affiliation with any street gangs and number three, the individual must be in compliance with its home state gun laws," Dancer said when he introduced the bill in August.
The Atlantic County prosecutor is reviewing the Allen case. If a settlement is reached that doesn't include prison time that would be great Bramnick said, but if Allen is sent to jail the assemblyman said he will ask for a special session of the legislature to pass Dancer's bill.
"This is a case where a woman who has no criminal record should not go to jail," Bramnick said.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May Court House) also sponsors legislation to give judges discretion in cases where people are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm while in New Jersey.
"I urge the prosecutor to allow Ms. Allen into the pretrial intervention program," Van Drew said in an emailed statement. "Locking up a single mother of two because of a misunderstanding of the law would be a travesty. The diversion program is the appropriate and fair way to resolve this case."