|Posted:||September 17, 2020 03:06 PM|
|From:||Representative Todd Stephens|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Creating a Justice Reinvestment Initiative III Working Group to improve pretrial criminal practices to reduce recidivism, lower costs to taxpayers, and improve outcomes|
|As a former prosecutor and the current Chair of the PA Commission on Sentencing I firmly believe there are remaining opportunities to improve our criminal justice system by reviewing our pretrial practices. Accordingly, I am introducing a resolution to signify our interest in addressing issues in pretrial practices to further reduce our county jail populations, reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars and improve outcomes.
Since 2012, the General Assembly has worked on significant criminal justice reforms which have come to known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiatives I and II. We have put forth criminal justice legislation focused on targeted system improvements designed to reduce recidivism while lowering costs to taxpayers and enhancing compensation to crime victims. These initiatives represent a data-driven approach meant to improve public safety, examine corrections and related criminal justice spending, manage and allocate criminal justice populations in a more cost-effective manner, and to reinvest savings in strategies that can hold offenders accountable, decrease crime, and strengthen neighborhoods. Together, these reforms are expected to save $48 million in state corrections spending by 2023.
Act 122 of 2012 and Act 196 of 2012 were enacted to redirect savings resulting from smart criminal justice reforms to be reinvested in supporting victims’ services, local law enforcement, county probation and parole and other programs and services.
Following another round of Justice Reinvestment Initiatives, Acts 114 and 115 of 2019 addressed the high cost of incarceration in the state; strengthened support for county probation programs; fixed inadequate sentencing guidelines; and reformed the post-trial criminal justice system to ensure work towards rehabilitation of individuals and preparation to reenter society, rather than creating further risks for recidivism.
Despite the successes of JRI I and JRI II in Pennsylvania, there are still more areas of the criminal justice system that were identified in those initiatives for bipartisan, data-driven improvement. Notably, JRI II included a recommendation that the state form a multi-branch task force dedicated to reviewing pretrial practices. This recommendation acknowledged that accelerating and improving pretrial practices could simultaneously reduce county jail populations held pretrial, thus reducing county costs, while enhancing public safety by quickly connecting arrestees with programming that can address underlying criminogenic behavior. There is further work that can be done to improve Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system to enhance public safety and improve outcomes for those who are drawn into the system.
Please join me in cosponsoring this resolution to show that the House of Representatives stands ready to partner with the Governor, the Senate, the Judiciary, and interested stakeholders throughout state, county and local governments to form a “Justice Reinvestment Initiative III” Working Group in Pennsylvania dedicated to analyzing and recommending concrete policy options to improve pretrial criminal practices to reduce recidivism, lower costs to taxpayers, and enhance public safety.