Governor Wolf Pledges More Criminal Justice Reform in Second Term

January 02, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf has been a steadfast supporter of criminal justice reforms that are fair, help our system work better and smarter, and save crucial taxpayer dollars. Today he pledged to continue his second term with more common-sense reforms.

“Since I became Governor, I have worked hard to reform our system so that it leads to better outcomes and saves taxpayer dollars – while also leading to less crime and fewer victims,” Governor Wolf said. “These efforts are working, but we must continue towards building the criminal justice system we all want to see in Pennsylvania.”

This afternoon, Gov. Wolf will join Community Legal Services, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, legislators, stakeholders and advocates, to announce an initiative to help Pennsylvanians navigate the Clean Slate law.

“Clean Slate will 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, including those to career success,” Gov. Wolf said. “This bill is the latest step in my administration’s efforts to make our commonwealth and our society safer by helping those who have offended put their lives back together.”

In addition to today’s Clean Slate announcement, Gov. Wolf today pledged his continued support for criminal justice reforms, including 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.

Governor Wolf’s efforts over the past four years, working in a bi-partisan manner with the General Assembly and numerous stakeholder and advocacy groups, have resulted in significant criminal justice reforms:

  • Announced 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.
  • Signed Tierne’s Law, strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence. Tierne Ewing, a victim of domestic violence, was murdered by her estranged husband in 2016 after he had been arrested for domestic abuse, then released.
  • Signed the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law, which strengthens penalties for hazing and ensures that schools have safeguards to protect students. Timothy Piazza was a 19-year-old Penn State University student who died in February 2017 at a fraternity.
  • Made it harder for domestic abusers to use firearms to kill, terrorize, and control their victims and others by signing Act 79 of 2018, which includes a reform long-sought by domestic violence and gun safety advocates.
  • Signed 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.
  • Signed Act 95 of 2018, eliminating driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions.
  • Signed Act 130 of 2018, the “Safe Harbor” law, which shields children who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation from prosecution for crimes their abusers forced them to commit, enhances law enforcement training, and establishes a new fund for victim services.
  • Signed 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.
  • Signed 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.
  • Signed Act 148 of 2018, a victim protection bill regarding housing options and emergency transfers.

While these reforms have been put in place, the state’s prison population continues to decline. In 2017, the total DOC inmate population dropped from 49,301 to 48,438, a decrease of 863 inmates or 1.8 percent over 2016.

And in the fifth consecutive year, from 2017 to 2018, the population in the state’s 25 correctional facilities dropped from 48,438 to 47,527, a decrease of 911 inmates or 1.9 percent over 2017.

“We need to focus on the work to make our criminal justice system fairer, more equitable and more focused on rehabilitation,” Governor Wolf said. “I am committed to continuing this important work in my second term.”

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