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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 30, 2017 02:13 PM
From: Representative Joanna E. McClinton
To: All House members
Subject: Pennsylvania Pretrial and Bail Procedure Reform
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that will reform Pennsylvania’s pretrial and bail procedures to provide a fairer, effective and less costly criminal justice system. The bill would encourage and incentivize counties to establish pretrial service programs that utilize standards proven to reduce the monetary, and human cost of corrections.

The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and yet houses nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners -- the majority of which are held in state and local jails. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections estimates that the Commonwealth’s jails have the capacity to house only about 47,000 inmates, yet our current jail population has tipped over 50,000 individuals – or 10 percent above capacity. This places Pennsylvania in the top ten states with the most overcrowded jails.

More than 60 percent of individuals who are currently held in jail have not been convicted of any crime, but are simply awaiting trial. In some jurisdictions in Pennsylvania, that rate is even higher. In Philadelphia County, 65% of inmates are being held in pretrial detention. Excessive pretrail detention is a significant issue in Pennsylvania – costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Some counties in the Commonwealth have taken the initiative to focus on pretrial service programs locally. For example, Allegheny County has a model pretrial program utilizes risk assessments, diversionary programs and nonmonetary bail options to determine if bail is necessary, and it’s working. Their recidivism rate is down and the rate at which people are showing up to court is up, which is not only saving money, but also saving lives.

But Allegheny County is the exception, not the norm. Nearly half of Pennsylvania counties do not have any pretrial service function and programs that are currently operating in the Commonwealth vary in effectiveness from county to county. My legislation would utilize “best practices” and place a priority on pretrial service programs as a way to address pivotal issues within our criminal justice system.

It is time for Pennsylvania to reform its pretrial and bail procedures. Antiquated bail practices result in loss of employment, housing, education, mental health services, and even the loss of custody of children, while providing no proof of keeping the public safe. In fact, research has found that a few days in jail awaiting trial increases the likelihood a defendant will be rearrested during that period by 40 percent.

I believe this is a Constitutional issue, a taxpayer issue, and an issue of fairness for those who have not been convicted of any crime but are simply awaiting trial. I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB1092