Gov. Wolf Commends Bi-Partisan Commitment to Criminal Justice Reform
June 10, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – As Criminal Justice Reform Caucus members and guests spoke at a press conference today about reentry and reintegration, Gov. Tom Wolf commended the caucus for its bi-partisan commitment to commonsense criminal justice reform.
“The caucus’ shared goal of advancing commonsense criminal justice reform is vital to giving those who have served their time a second chance,” Gov. Wolf said. “We know that effective reentry strategies reduce recidivism and increase public safety, and I commend the caucus for viewing this important, ongoing effort through a bi-partisan lens, focused on individuals, not political party.”
Reentry and reintegration are priorities for Gov. Wolf, the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole with programs in place to help inmates and parolees overcome barriers to post-incarceration success.
Every year the DOC releases 19,000 individuals back into their communities following incarceration. DOC provides inmates with a variety of educational and vocational programs to teach them skills that they can use after incarceration to obtain and maintain life-sustaining jobs.
Inmates who receive training while still incarnated have a better chance at success once released from prison.
For those who don’t have a stable home environment to return to, the journey of reentry begins at one of dozens of community correction centers (CCC) throughout the commonwealth. The continuity of the services at these facilities can make the transition back into the community smoother for the reentrant.
In addition to employment and housing, many reentrants suffer from substance use disorder and the DOC works to ensure access to community programs like mental health care, substance abuse treatment and support groups in order to successfully reenter into society. A collaborative effort with the Opioid Command Center is also underway to ensure reentrants have a bridge from treatment they’ve received in prison to community-based treatment and recovery services.
Gov. Wolf has made criminal justice reform a priority, working with both sides of the aisle on multiple initiatives, including:
• A Fair-Chance hiring policy for state agencies that removes the criminal conviction question, otherwise known as “banning the box,” from non-civil service employment applications for agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction.
• Signing the “Clean Slate” bill, the first of its kind in the nation, to help those who have committed low-level offenses and have paid their penalty get back on the path to a blemish-free record, removing potential roadblocks to jobs, housing, health care, and education.
• Signing Act 95 of 2018, eliminating driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions.
• Signing Act 146 of 2018, extending the time a convicted individual has to file a post-conviction relief action to one year, from what was 60 days under current law.
• Signing Act 147 of 2018, updating Pennsylvania’s DNA testing law to reflect significant advances in technology and the lessons learned by criminal justice professionals since 2002. The legislation removes the supervision requirement that only people serving a sentence can apply for DNA testing.
• Signing Act 148 of 2018, a victim protection bill regarding housing options and emergency transfers.
• Experiencing a record decline in the state’s prison population, while also experiencing a drop in crime.
Gov. Wolf has also called for additional reforms, including passage and implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, or JRI 2, to address the high cost of incarceration in the state, to strengthen support for county probation programs, and to fix inadequate sentencing guidelines; reforming the pre-trial system to make certain that those accused of a crime have access to competent legal counsel and a reasonable bail system; and reforming the post-trial criminal justice system to ensure work towards rehabilitation of individuals and preparation to reenter society, rather than creating further risks for recidivism.
“We all have a stake in helping give those who have paid their debt to society every possible chance to succeed when they return to their communities,” Gov. Wolf said. “Many of these bi-partisan reforms are doing just that and I look forward to seeing additional commonsense reforms come to my desk.”