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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 8, 2019 02:27 PM
From: Representative Paul Schemel and Rep. Joanna E. McClinton
To: All House members
Subject: Justice Reinvestment Initiative Legislation
In 2016 the bi-partisan, multi-agency task force known as the Justice Reinvestment Working Group issued an exhaustive report detailing concrete recommendations for reducing recidivism and addressing inefficiencies in the probation system. The Working Group included legislators, DAs, public defenders, law enforcement, judges and public policy organizations such as PEW and The Council on State Government. Following the release of the report, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, known as JRI, was passed into law. The legislation below, known as JRI-2, is the second phase of the initiative. This effort enjoys bi-partisan support and has the backing of policy advocates as diverse as the Commonwealth Foundation and the ACLU. The proposed bills will streamline criminal justice processes, provide additional resources to counties, save taxpayer dollars and provide opportunities for persons who find themselves caught in the “system” to move toward lives as productive citizens.

Document #1

Introduced as HB1573

Description: Bill #1 (Prime Sponsor:  Rep. McClinton)

Description: The first bill will create a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee and allow counties to retain all supervision fees they collect.

According to a 2015 report from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, 86% of all probation and parole cases are under the jurisdiction of county probation departments.  As of December 31, 2013, county probation and parole offices supervised 233,345 offenders, compared to 39,036 offenders at the state level.  The probation and parole population (both state and county) account for 72% of the entire criminal offender population in Pennsylvania.  Meanwhile, many new responsibilities have been placed on county probation and parole offices with little or no additional funding.  Unlike juvenile probation departments, which receive guidance and IT support from the Juvenile Court Judges Commission, adult county probation departments have no central agency to organize them and implement uniform best practices.

The bill will amend the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Law in two ways.  It would add the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee, which would advise PCCD on funding, standards and training for county adult probation and parole departments. The bill also revises the Justice Reinvestment funding mechanism to account for savings expected from another bill in the package.  It seeks to distribute funding for increased victim compensation ($250,000 annually) and to provide resources to meaningfully improve county adult probation and parole (increasing to $20 million annually in 5 years).

Finally, the bill will amend the Crime Victims Act to allow counties to maintain 100% of supervision fees in a local restricted receipts account.

Please join us in cosponsoring this legislation to equip our county probation departments with the resources they need.

Document #2

Introduced as HB1574

Description: Bill #2 (Prime Sponsor:  Rep. Schemel)

Description: This bill will generate significant savings for the Department of Corrections by streamlining the process for placement in State Intermediate Punishment, allowing parole agents to quickly detain parolees for violations, and streamlining the process for paroling people who receive a short sentence to prison.

The bill seeks to change State Intermediate Punishment to its more common and accurate description in statute, the “State drug treatment program.” It retains the current law of ineligible offenses, but to expand usage, amends the selection process from an elaborate sentencing option to a simpler DOC placement (similar to the provisions for the Department’s motivational boot camp). The bill allows the judge to affirmatively prevent DOC placement in the program, after considering any prosecutor objections.

Our legislation includes multiple amendments to remove county probation from the responsibilities of the Board of Probation and Parole, and rename it the Parole Board, in connection with another bill in the package, which creates the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee.

The bill provides new authority for parole agents to detain a parolee for up to five days, and allows for use of video technology for parole process interactions.  The bill will not change existing law requiring that all interactions by the Parole Board with victims take place in person.

Finally, the bill provides new authority governing short-sentence parole.

Please join us in cosponsoring this important legislation.

Document #3

Introduced as HB1575

Description: Bill #3 (Prime Sponsor:  Rep. McClinton)

Description: This bill amends the Crime Victims Act to better provide information and compensation to victims.

The bill updates the definitions in the Act, adding notice of the Address Confidentiality Program, and providing a right to notice of placement in the state drug offender treatment program, as provided for by another bill in the package. The bill would shift the burden of notifying the victim of his or her rights from a law enforcement agency to the individual officer and adds to the prosecutor’s duties to provide notification on behalf of the victim to the Office of Victim Advocate.

For victim compensation, the bill changes the statute of limitations for making claim from 2 to 3 years and allow for a good faith extension, and to decrease the minimum loss from $100 to $50. It grants flexibility in the amount of emergency awards, adds eligibility for recipients of sexual violence and intimidation order, adds crime scene clean-up for vehicles, and excuses victims under 18 from requirement to use insurance. It clarifies the reporting requirement to be eligible for compensation and merges the Crime Victims Compensation Fund and Victim Witness Services Fund into a single, non-lapsing fund.

Please join us in cosponsoring this important legislation for crime victims in the Commonwealth.