Gov. Wolf: Pennsylvania Can Lead Nation with Bipartisan Probation and Parole Reforms

April 03, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today praised the bipartisan focus on reforming Pennsylvania’s probation and parole systems. Yesterday, bipartisan legislators joined criminal justice reform advocates, including the REFORM Alliance, to announce an upcoming bill to overhaul probation and parole in the commonwealth.

“Just like the clean slate bill, Pennsylvania can lead the nation with bold bipartisan reforms to probation and parole,” Governor Wolf said. “We have seen too many cases where long-tail probation terms trap individuals in the criminal justice system, even if they are never convicted of another crime. This hurts their families, their communities and our economy.

“We must address the high human and financial costs of both incarceration and supervision. Doing so will deliver cost savings and better outcomes that ultimately reduce crime and strengthen our workforce.

“We need to make our criminal justice system fairer, more equitable and more focused on rehabilitation. I look forward to working with bipartisan legislators to continue our progress.”

To continue leading the nation on criminal justice reform, Governor Wolf wants to:

• Pass and implement 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.
• Reform the pre-trial system to make certain that those accused of a crime have access to competent legal counsel and a reasonable bail system.
• Reform 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.
• Focus on probation reform to ensure the right individuals have the right level of supervision and technical probation violations do not mean an immediate return to incarceration. This works hand-in-hand with first ensuring sentences are commensurate with the severity of crimes committed.

Pennsylvania’s bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts in recent years have led to consecutive years of lower prison populations, all while crime has also fallen. Some of these reforms include:

• 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.
• A “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.
Act 95 of 2018, which eliminated driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions.
Act 146 of 2018, which extended the time a convicted individual has to file a post-conviction relief action to one year, from what was 60 days under current law.
Act 147 of 2018, which updated Pennsylvania’s DNA testing law to reflect significant advances in technology and the lessons learned by criminal justice professionals since 2002. The legislation removed the supervision requirement that only people serving a sentence can apply for DNA testing.

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