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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: July 20, 2017 02:30 PM
From: Representative Joanna E. McClinton and Rep. Donna Bullock
To: All House members
Subject: Community-Based Sentencing Alternatives for Primary Caretakers
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to direct the court to sentence primary caretakers of children under the age of 18 to an individualized community-based sentence.

In instances of low-level and non-violent offenses that do not carry mandatory minimum sentences, a judge in Pennsylvania has the ability to choose a sentence of non-confinement and order the offender to complete a number of rehabilitative services. My legislation would require the court to determine whether the offender is a primary caretaker of a child under the age of 18, and if so, to hand down an individually-assessed sentence without confinement.

The number of families affected by an incarcerated parent is alarming; for instance:
  • More than 60 percent of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18;
  • Of the 1.7 million children in America with a parent in prison in 2007, more than 70 percent were children of color; and
  • Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent, rising from a total of 26,378 to 215,332.

In Pennsylvania, there were more than 5,000 women in state correctional facilities in April 2014. However, it is estimated that 40,000 women in Pennsylvania spend some time incarcerated each year. Incarcerating women has a significant and long-lasting impact on communities as they are more likely than men to be primary caretakers of children. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, engage in delinquency, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves. As the number of women in prison has been increasing at a rate of 50 percent higher than men since 1980, many states are changing the way they sentence those who are primary caretakers of children under the age of 18.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1690