HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee took action today on comprehensive probation reform intended to reduce the amount of time and resources devoted to probationers and help them fully reintegrate into society, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) who chairs the panel.
“In our comprehensive look at the concerns and challenges of criminal justice, increasing attention is being given to overhauling probation,” Baker said. “But probation reform does not equate to abandoning our commitment to safety in our neighborhoods.”
SB 14 provides an opportunity for early release from probation and ensures fewer individuals return to prison by offering incentives that reward positive behavior and participation in education, employment, vocational and drug treatment programming shown to reduce recidivism.
The other crucial elements making this a substantial and constructive improvement include: mandatory review conferences, limits on probation in most cases, and needed flexibility in dealing with violations.
“When the decision is made to incarcerate or to place an individual on probation, there are a lot of parties involved in making that decision,” Baker stated. “To release an individual should not be a unilateral or snap determination. Those involved in the front end of justice, including victims, warrant a say on terminating a legally imposed sentence and the transition to freedom.”
The bill is bipartisan in its development, sponsorship, and advocacy. Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-8) championed the cause.
Americans for Prosperity believes that helping more people successfully complete their terms of probation will make our communities safer and help more people reach their potential.
According to the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, updates like limiting when a technical violation can lead to revocation of probation and directing courts to consider scheduling confinement around a probationer’s work schedule will help reentrants obtain and maintain employment.
The REFORM Alliance, an organization focused exclusively on community supervision, said the legislation creates a path forward for success by encouraging people to complete their probation terms in a reasonable time while simultaneously holding them accountable for wrongdoing.
“We all realize that in making judgments about future conduct, there are no guarantees,” Baker added. “But if we engage in an informed deliberative review based on individual circumstances, it increases the chances of avoiding tragic misjudgments and resulting in a system of justice worthy of the term.”