Since 1982, the state of Pennsylvania’s incarceration rate has increased by 280%. Between 1999-2007, the prison population in Pennsylvania increased by 24%, far outpacing the growth of the adult resident population. In the year of 2007, one in 28 adults in the state were in prison, on probation, or on parole, costing taxpayers more than $1.8 billion.
Pennsylvania began fixing its system in 2012 under former Governor Tom Corbett (R)’s leadership. Pennsylvania passed legislation in 2012 that identifies savings in the state corrections budget and reinvests those savings in county-level alternatives to incarceration. In addition, lawmakers passed a 2016 bill that makes it possible for low-level ex-offenders, who have served their time and not committed any crimes for 7 -10 years, to ask the court to seal their criminal records.
In 2018, Governor Tom Wolf (D) passed a bipartisan bill that protects citizens from civil asset forfeiture, and a clean slate bill, which expands expungement eligibility for certain offenses. Pennsylvania also followed in Hawaii’s footsteps and initiated a pilot probation program, modeled off of Project HOPE to reduce recidivism.
In 2019, lawmakers passed two Justice Reinvestment Initiative bills, one that fixes inadequate sentencing guidelines, and another that strengthens support for probation programs, and improves rehabilitation services to help reduce risk for recidivism. Pennsylvania also introduced two pieces of legislation that would reform how long offenders stay on probation, some of the conditions of probation, and the time served in prison for probation violations. Both the House and Senate bills would create statutory maximums on the lengths of probation sentences and create due process requirements for revocation of probation based on technical violations. In addition, the House bill would allow offenders to earn time off probation upon their completion of educational or vocational training programs. These bills are still in session and will hopefully be passed.
Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.
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