Governor Wolf and leadership from the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole are committed to the creation of one unified department to improve public safety and strengthen services to victims while preserving the independence of the board’s decision making. The unification will save a projected $124 million over five years and reduce recidivism by an estimated 5 percent, all while maintaining current staff levels in both state agencies.
The new Department of Criminal Justice will maintain the state system for the custody and rehabilitation of criminally convicted individuals, and the eventual supervision of reentrants on parole, helping them to continue to reintegrate into society.
Governor Wolf has made government transparency, efficiency, and customer-focused delivery of services a cornerstone of his administration. This unification is one example of putting those principals of government that works into action.
Here are some reasons why a unified Department of Criminal Justice makes sense for Pennsylvania.
Increased public safety and realize government efficiencies
Proactive policy changes and the elimination of duplication and confusion from the corrections and reentry system will lead to increased public safety. Here’s how:
- By providing a continuity of supervision and care for individuals transitioning out of state correctional institutions and onto parole supervision. Individuals will benefit from a comprehensive supervision process, whether that is through a community correction facility, GPS monitoring, or a home plan.
- By unifying community corrections system under field supervision. Currently there are blurred lines of authority especially as it relates to the state-run systems. This unification will both eliminate the redundancy and the confusion.
- By eliminating inefficiencies and overlap that often-become barriers to success. The newly merged functions will enhance the level of communication and help to identify programs/processes that work.
- By streamlining administrative offices, eliminating duplicative services, reducing time wasted on overlap, and modernizing the use of technology.
A focus of the unified department will be on outcomes, specifically the crime rate of parolees. By using differential case management, the department can ensure that the highest risk parolees receive the most scrutiny and parole officers have the resources to hold all parolees accountable. That leads to increased public safety. More ways that public safety will be a focus:
- Collaborative reentry efforts that begin from the time an individual enters the correctional system and continues until the end of parole supervision. When done properly, reentry efforts increase public safety. Governor Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently announced the launch of the Pennsylvania Reentry Council, a collaborative effort to communicate, share best practices, and future enhance the state’s reentry initiatives already under way in 21 reentry councils.
- Continuing to decrease prison growth over time by implementing strategies that support successful, permanent reintegration. Since January 2015, the state prison population has been reduced by 2,074 individuals.
- Providing thorough, comprehensive, cross-departmental training will ensure all staff are equally prepared for each task at hand.
- Improving research and evaluation methodologies and combined grant proposal will improve services and reduce costs.
- A unified Department of Criminal Justice will realize $87 million in complement savings over a five-year period and an additional $37.4 million is savings over that same period based on employing cohesive, research-driven strategies that support successful, permanent reintegration, resulting in a 5 percent reduction in recidivism.
- Additional savings are anticipated, New York State merged these departments for an estimated $6.5 million in savings during the first year but within months had more than doubled their savings.
Merger Savings Summary
|Central Office Doc||3,297,000||3,363,000||3,430,000||3,499,000||3,569,000|
|Central Office PBPP||1,380,000||1,408,000||1,436,000||1,465,000||1,494,000|
|Merger Savings Total||10,609,000||18,335,000||31,162,000||31,768,000||32,381,000|
Calculated Cumulative FTE Reductions
|Central Office DOC*||45||45||45||45||45|
|Central Office PBPP*||13||13||13||13||13|
|* Includes filled and vacant – December 2, 2016.|
|** Transferred to field supervision staff.|
How will the Department of Criminal Justice Work?
Our goal remains the same: to reduce the future criminality of incarcerated individuals and parolees through evidence-based programming and effective supervision techniques coupled with appropriate staffing and resource dedication. The unification of the DOC and the PBPP will allow us to effectively achieve this goal while ensuring the continued employment and professional growth of department staff.
Anticipated Systematic Improvements
State Intermediate Punishment (SIP)
As a unified system, the SIP diversionary sentencing program would be more efficiently implemented. State parole supervision staff would work in unison with SIP program staff to provide a more efficient, streamlined, community-based supervision protocol. PBPP field agents are accustomed to the SIP program and familiar with the community resources. SIP and PBPP could combine their GPS programs to utilize for both SIP and parolees. The communications/monitoring centers can combine to provide more adequate staffing and a unified service throughout the commonwealth. The overall 3-year recidivism rate is approximately 10% lower for SIP Program participants, and the program has saved the Commonwealth over $80 million.
Community Corrections Centers
Provide consistent and coordinated supervision and direction for reentrants through a combined Bureau of Community Corrections (BCC) and PBPP. Under the current system, organizational and jurisdictional boundaries BCC/PBPP prevent an aligned approach to the management of reentrants. This inconsistency leads to reentrant frustration and reduced accountability for all involved. One agency, one set of rules, and one training program leads to a singular focus on more effective reentry system.
Improve public safety through a combined BCC’s communication center and PBPP’s 24/7 unit. When a parolee absconds from a community correction center the BCC communication center must notify PBPP 24/7 unit for a warrant to be issued. By combining these two units, warrant processing would be expedited, reducing the delays. The combining of these two units would also fill a current need by PBPP to expand its current 24/7 unit to fulfill its new role of statewide GPS monitoring.
Standardize and implement a new evidence-based assessment protocol across the SCI-reentry-community continuum for greater consistency of individualized risk and needs assessment. Staff will be able to administer the assessment and the case plan may be re-reviewed annually to determine the risks and needs of the individual as well as note any improvements. The updated assessment process will begin at intake and follow the individual throughout their incarceration and into their supervision. Utilizing an assessment tool in this manner will improve outcomes as it will provide a more cohesive continuity of care.
The standardized assessment process detailed above will result in an improved reentry service coordination and continuity of care and supervision from the time of incarceration to the time a reentrant has successfully served his/her sentence. Utilizing one assessment protocol will reduce duplication of assessments which result in different outcomes (i.e. risk/needs). This will ensure that appropriate treatment is suggested and provided. Provide consistent treatment throughout and individual’s incarceration and supervision of the offender is essential to their success. Treatment will begin during incarceration, treatment plans will be developed prior to release to ensure continuity of services, and parole supervision staff will follow-up to encourage continued treatment in the community. A unified process will provide better communication and allow for the opportunity to ensure accountability.
Alcohol & Other Drug Treatment
Improve the continuum of care for individuals receiving AOD treatment within the institutions. Upon release from incarceration risk factors will increase significantly. Coordinated treatment will provide for the continuity of AOD counseling, support groups, medicated assisted treatment (MAT), etc.
Mental Health Treatment
Provide a continuity of care for those receiving mental health treatment. Collaboratively, institutional staff will be able to better coordinate with field staff a reentry plan which includes mental health counseling, intake mental health appointment, prescription information, peer support, and medical insurance. The most important aspect of mental health treatment for the severely mentally ill is medication compliance. A unified system will ensure continuity of care for these cases.
Advance reentry planning and continued treatment for individuals with medical disabilities that require continued long term medical care. Working in a unified manner will increase quality of life by ensuring appropriate medical treatment is part of the reentry plan.
Eliminate redundancies in workload and make superior use of our combined resources.
Create an Interstate prisoner transport solution for extradition and Interstate Parole returns respectively. A contract with U.S. Corrections is maintained by both agencies to accommodate these return transfers across state lines as needed. Combining this service into a single contract and centralizing the facilitation of these services would create greater efficiencies, reduced administrative costs, and increased public safety by allowing agents to focus on their fieldwork.
In addition the DOC’s Office of Population Management coordinates the transfers of approximately 35,000 inmates annually. The PBPP routinely conducts parolee pickups from State Correctional Institutions. By implementing the same “seat utilization” and “route optimization” strategies that have been successful in the DOC, and centralizing the transportation management of the PBPP parolee transfers we would create greater efficiencies including reduced administrative and transport costs.
Reentry & Collaboration
Enhance the focus of reentry and collaboration by reallocating the corrections counselor staff under the Office of Reentry to provide another layer of consistent reentry planning and case management services for individuals transitioning from incarceration, pre-parole planning, supervision, and successful reintegration. This will ensure that “reentry starts from the moment of inception into the institution.”
Quality Assurance (QA)
With the use of the Office of Standards and Accreditation, under a unified system, oversight will be provided that will allow for auditing and quality assurance. The ability to audit will allow institutional programming, community corrections centers and the programming they provide, and field parole supervision services to be in alignment with the best practices in community supervision. This will provide a more cohesive system.
Under the new department, staff will have more tools to effectively do their jobs. The safety, well-being, and training of staff are top priorities and we are committed to no staff furloughs. We appreciate the work that each staff member performs every day. Their commitment to public service improves the commonwealth’s goal of public safety for all residents of Pennsylvania.
The public we serve will benefit significantly from the unification thanks for the creation of a single point-of-contact and simplified, streamlined service delivery.
The following examples detail the “before” and “after” unification for an individual involved with the Department of Corrections and Probation and Parole process.
The Criminal Justice story of John
John was 21 when he is arrested for entering an apartment without consent and attacking his victim. John is convicted of burglary and aggravated assault. He is sentenced to 4 years and 6 months to 10 years. His minimum sentence date (MIN) is November 28, 2013 and his maximum sentence date (MAX) is May 28, 2019.
John arrives at state prison
John is admitted to the Diagnostic and Classification Center. For male offenders, this is the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Camp Hill. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) conducts a battery of assessments:
- Risk Screen Tool (RST) – risk of reoffending and program indicator
- Criminal Sentiments Scale-Modified (CSS-M) –measures criminal attitudes
- Texas Christian University Drug Screen (TCU) – substance abuse treatment
- Personality Assessment Inventory – guides future clinical interviews and programming, including violence indicator
- Psychological Assessment Interview – screen for clinical pathology and risk and mental health issues
- Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE)
The results of John’s assessment are:
- No mental health needs
- Low CSSM – criminal attitudes
- High RST- risk
- Low TCU – drug screen
- Medium PAI Aggression (AGG)
- Offender Violence Risk Typology (OVRT)
- Did not attain 12th grade education
- Prior parole failure
While incarcerated, the DOC delivers cognitive behavioral programming to address treatment needs. John’s rehabilitative needs:
- Violence Prevention High Intensity (includes Thinking for a Change)
- Employed as a barber in prison
- Obtain his GED
Eight months prior to John’s MIN Date, preparation for his initial parole hearing begins. The DOC and the board work together to gather information for the parole interview. They collect numerous pieces of key information about John’s case.
Four months prior to John’s MIN date, the parole interview is held. Approximately one month later, John receives his board action, which is the official, written decision issued by the board to either grant or deny parole following the parole interview/hearing. John is granted parole on or after November 28, 2013, his MIN sentence date.
John’s conditions of parole
All of the rules and conditions John must follow are listed in the board action and other paperwork he must sign before his release. While incarcerated, John submitted a home plan but his request by the landlord was denied. John is to be paroled on or after November 28 to a community corrections center (CCC) as he continues to work on another home plan. His parole conditions are: maintain employment/training; no contact with persons who sell or use drugs outside of a treatment setting; submit to drug testing; no contact with the victim or known associates/co-defendants; and pay financial obligations.
John is released
John signs his release orders and conditions of parole and leaves the SCI. He must report to the CCC within 24 hours. John meets a parole agent within five days. They review his initial supervision plan. The supervision plan addresses John’s risks for reoffending and his needs to help him be successful on parole.
John violates parole
While still at the CCC, John commits several center violations by signing out for work but failing to report to work. John’s parole agent work collaboratively with CCC staff. On his first violation John receives a written warning. John later commits a second violation and his parole agent places him on GPS. A week later, John has a positive urine for synthetic drugs. On February 6, 2014, John is unsuccessfully discharged from the CCC by BCC staff. John’s parole agent submits a referral to BCC and he is placed in inpatient drug and alcohol treatment.
John is transported to an inpatient drug and alcohol program. Within three days, John was found with K2 (synthetic marijuana) in his pocket and refused to be searched by staff.
An expedited removal of John is requested by inpatient staff to his parole agent to remove him to a parole violator center (PVC). John is informed of his rights. He is given a Notice of Charges against him, which includes being unsuccessfully discharged from the CCC and inpatient treatment. A preliminary hearing on John’s case will be held within 14 days. John chooses to waive his rights to a preliminary hearing. While at the PVC, John was noncompliant with programming and had aggressive behavior toward staff.
John’s Technical Violation Hearing
At the violation hearing, the parole agent provides the evidence. The CCC discharge summary is provided: John had been signing out to go to work but was not reporting to work. The board’s hearing examiner finds John in violation based on this evidence: John’s own admission of signing out for work but not going to work and also the CCC records that showed the dates, times and John’s signatures. The hearing examiner recommits John to state prison because of the violation, early parole failure and his previous parole failure from a separate sentence. The hearing examiner also considered that John was an identifiable threat because of his unmanageable behavior when the board diverted him to parole violator center. John is recommitted to state prison for up to six months. The parole agent then transports John to the designated SCI.
So what happened to John?
John follows the rules while in the SCI and remains eligible for automatic re-parole. John is automatically re-paroled in six months. He signs his release orders and leaves prison. John reports to his designated parole district office within 24 hours of his release. The board’s prior conditions of parole still apply to John. John is still serving the remainder of his court-imposed sentence and will be on parole until May 28, 2019.
What does the new Criminal Justice Department mean for the Parole Board?
The Parole Board
The primary responsibilities of the board will remain the same: to ensure public safety of the commonwealth by promulgating the regulations of the general conditions of supervision applicable to every reentrant on parole and establishing the special conditions of supervision for a reentrant. Under the unification, the Parole Board is an independent decision-making authority and retains revocation of parolees. The Parole Board, Office of Victim Advocate, and Sexual Offenders Board will continue to share services like IT and Human Resources with the new department.
The Board will maintain an Administrative Services Office, Hearing Examiners Office, Board Secretary Office (Case Analysis Division and Quality Assurance Division), Office of General Counsel attorney, a communications liaison, and a policy and legislative affairs liaison. The chairman will continue to supervise support staff to carry out the board’s independent function of making decisions on parole and recommitment.
Office of Victim Advocate
Under the unification, The Office of Victim Advocate will become an independent entity within the new department to carry out its mission of representing, protecting and advancing the individual and collective rights and interests of crime victims.
Sexual Offenders Assessment Board
The Sexual Offenders Assessment Board will also be an independent office within the new department and will remain responsible for conducting assessments of certain convicted sex offenders to assist the court in determining whether they meet the legal criteria for classification as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP).
SB522 and 523
Sponsored by Senator Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), the unification legislation, Senate Bills 522 and 523, are currently in the House of Representatives for consideration. The bills passed the Senate on May 24: SB 522 by a vote of 38-12 and SB523 by a vote of 48-2. The legislation combines all functions of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole and the Department of Corrections into the new Department of Criminal Justice. The Parole Board will be an independent decision-making body, but all supervision from reception to sentence completion will be the new department’s responsibility.
“I introduced this legislation to accomplish two important goals—save precious tax dollars, and continue to improve our corrections system that focuses on the rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders. I believe the newly consolidated department will be better equipped to focus on the mission of reducing recidivism and provide a broader range of tools to supervise parolees and guide them towards a law-abiding lifestyle.” – Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
“Governor Wolf recognizes that the taxpayers want our government to run efficiently and transparently. His merger of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole will eliminate redundancies, saving us millions of tax dollars, and bring a groundbreaking level of transparency to the parole process. This bold move by Governor Wolf will benefit the commonwealth for decades to come.” – Senator Daylin Leach
Over the past several months, a workgroup comprised of staff from each agency, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, has worked to create the most efficient way to create a streamlined Department of Criminal Justice.
Support for the Unification
We deeply value your feedback on our proposal to create a new Department of Criminal Justice. Fill out the form below and let us know what you think! Or, if you would prefer, please email us at our resource account, RA-CRDOCPBPPUNIFICAT@pa.gov; or call 888-316-8950 where you can leave a message to be called back with answers to specific questions.