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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: September 8, 2023 11:13 AM
From: Representative Sheryl M. Delozier and Rep. Craig Williams, Rep. Kathy L. Rapp, Rep. John A. Lawrence, Rep. Michael Stender
To: All House members
Subject: Enhancing County Jail Safety and Infrastructure
In the near future, we plan to introduce a package of legislation to address a recent rash of county jail escapes in Pennsylvania.  In 2023 alone, Pennsylvania has seen multiple jail escapes in counties such as Philadelphia, Warren and Chester. These escapes involved incredibly dangerous inmates, including those charged or convicted of murder.  Public safety demands attention to this threat.  Our bills will not only deter and punish future escapes, but will help equip counties with resources and personnel needed to keep their communities safe. 

This package of legislation will strengthen the consequences for inmates who escape or attempt to escape while incarcerated and help ensure and reinforce public safety in communities across the Commonwealth.  Please join us in co-sponsoring these important pieces of legislation. 

Document #1

Introduced as HB1673

Description: Bill #1 – C. Williams
When Pennsylvania adopted Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) reforms to reducing corrections spending, a portion of those savings were dedicated toward public initiatives to increase public safety.  The current portions distributed to county corrections are insufficient in addressing several of the considerable challenges that our county correctional facilities face, including infrastructure issues, security improvements, staffing shortages and the hiring and retention of qualified correctional officers. Our legislation will require that a greater portion of the JRI savings be directed to fund our county jails to address these shortcomings, improve security, and promote the safety of inmates and staff.   

Document #2

Introduced as HB1674

Description: Bill #2 – Rapp
We believe it is imperative that a paroling authority be precluded from prematurely releasing an inmate if that individual was convicted of escape, attempting to escape or aiding another to escape while incarcerated.  It is clear that individuals who escape or attempt to escape while incarcerated are not rehabilitated and represent a genuine threat to the public.  This legislation would eliminate parole eligibility for individuals who are convicted of escape, attempting to escape or aiding another to escape while incarcerated. It would also require a mandatory probationary period be applied to the tail of an individual’s maximum sentence to ensure they are properly supervised upon reentry.

Document #3

Introduced as HB1675

Description: Bill #3 – Lawrence
We believe that in order to prevent future prison escapes, it is imperative that current practices and policies are reviewed when escapes occur.  Consequently, this legislation will require the Department of Corrections to conduct a full security and staffing review at any county jail that experiences an escape or attempted escape, working in cooperation with local officials, the State Police, and other law enforcement officials that the department believes should participate.  Following this review, the Department of Corrections will be required to issue a report that includes specific recommendations to address the flaws in security or staffing that helped facilitate the escape or attempted escape.  By understanding current shortcomings, we can hopefully avoid similar escapes occurring in the future.

Document #4

Introduced as HB1676

Description: Bill #4 – Delozier
As a result of severe staffing shortages, many of our county correctional facilities are unable to devote sufficient manpower to the observation, supervision, and security of inmates housed in their facilities.  The inability of counties to staff their jails with an adequate number of qualified guards has predictably led to a number of crises, including a surge of prison violence and several high-profile inmate escapes.  This bill will allow counties to hire off-duty correctional officers from other counties or the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to augment their depleted staff, if necessary. 

Document #5

Introduced as HB1677

Description: Bill #5 – Stender
We believe when a dangerous inmate escapes from jail, it is imperative that the public be made aware as soon as possible. This is essential not only for the safety of the community, but also by making the public aware of an escapee’s physical appearance and other attributes, the public can be a valuable resource to law enforcement in quickly capturing these dangerous individuals. For this reason, this legislation will establish the Pennsylvania Dangerous Inmate or Escapee Alert System (“DIEAS”) which will assist in protecting impacted communities and capturing dangerous inmates when they escape from incarceration through prompt notification to the general public, appropriate law enforcement, and other public agencies. The DIEAS will be established and maintained by the State Police and will function in a similar fashion as Pennsylvania’s Amber Alert and Missing Endangered Person Advisory System.