When Dr. Oz is not mocking John Fetterman’s health problems, he is creating alternative facts about the lieutenant governor’s position on crime. As the head of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, Fetterman holds considerable authority over the commutation of prisoners’ sentences. As a result, Fetterman has made various comments about life sentences, and prisons.
Consider the following statements:
“Reduce 1/3 of all prisoners”.
“Eliminate Automatic Life Sentences for Murderers”.
“I mean full pardons with an apology to many. They’ve been so badly treated.”
Oz has used the statement about reducing prison population by one-third in a recent television ad. The statement actually comes from Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, which Fetterman subsequently tweeted. Mr. Wetzel explained that there are prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes and that the criminal justice system and society would be better off having these convicts in alternative criminal justice settings than in expensive brick-and mortar prisons.
Until about 1983, prison populations were not one-third, but two-thirds smaller than they are today. Since then, prison population has sky-rocketed with no discernable effect on crime. There has been an increase in certain white-collar crime, however, as unscrupulous businessmen and jurists have participated in schemes to saturate prisons with people convicted of peccadillos such as the infamous Kids for Cash scandal of Luzerne County.
In the same ad, Oz also made the claim about eliminating automatic life sentences for murderers, and cites radio station KDKA as one of the sources of this assertion. What the station had actually reported was Fetterman’s contention that people convicted of a crime at the scene where someone else had committed a murder are often given life sentences and they should therefore have an opportunity to be paroled – a far cry from the claims of the Oz ad.
The statement, “I mean full pardons with an apology to many. They’ve been so badly treated,” however, wasn’t made by Fetterman at all. That statement was made by Donald Trump, calling into Wendy Bell Radio last week in Pittsburgh, claiming he will pardon participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot if he runs again and wins.
The Oz ad does get one thing right. Toward the end the announcer says, "We need a change." She is right. A Republican has occupied that senatorial seat for too long.