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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: April 23, 2015 03:04 PM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: SHOCAP - Serious Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Plan
In the near future, I intend to re-introduce legislation that was Senate Bill 777 of the 2013-14 legislative session. Cosponsors of Senate Bill 777 last session included: Senators FONTANA , RAFFERTY , ERICKSON , BREWSTER, WASHINGTON , SCHWANK, COSTA , BAKER , TARTAGLIONE , SOLOBAY , HUGHES , ALLOWAY, FOLMER , WILLIAMS , FARNESE, VULAKOVICH , FERLO and BOSCOLA.

This legislation is intended to encourage the multiple agencies that are normally involved in child welfare and delinquency cases to share information and work together toward the goal of achieving the best possible outcomes in these cases, pursuant to inter-agency information sharing agreements that would be approved by the Court. Provided that no child-specific or other confidential information is disclosed, this legislation would also permit the sharing of information between authorized representatives of county and court agencies in furtherance of efforts to identify and provide services to children who are determined to be at risk of child abuse, parental neglect or initial or additional delinquent behavior.

The legislation would ensure that the inter-agency sharing of confidential drug and alcohol, mental health, and education records of certain children who are involved in child welfare or juvenile delinquency proceedings is governed by relevant state and Federal law. The notable exception is that the sharing of drug and alcohol information in these cases would be governed only by relevant Federal law and the Juvenile Act.

Each inter-agency sharing agreement would be required to provide that the preferred method for obtaining authorization to share confidential information shall be upon the written, informed consent of the person authorized under applicable law to consent to the release of information after that person has been provided a full understanding of the circumstances under which, and with whom, the information will be shared. In counties that do not have agencies with primary responsibility for representing delinquent or dependent children, the court would be required to designate lawyers with experience in representing these children to satisfy this requirement.

In some Counties, collaborative arrangements have been informally developed for information sharing between law enforcement agencies, juvenile probation authorities, school districts, and county agencies supervising children and youth, drug and alcohol dependency, and mental health/mental retardation services. These county agencies often have information about many of the same individuals or families, but because of confidentiality concerns, are unable to legally and officially transmit information about at-risk persons or families.

Such a program has worked well in Lehigh County under the acronym of SHOCAP – Serious Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Plan. The underlying premise of this program is to facilitate the distribution of information between all relevant agencies to try to prevent both further victimization and/or criminal conduct of individuals in a family. I believe that each county would benefit tremendously from enacting this team approach. Through early intervention, each county would be able to reduce potential demands on the social service networks and possible involvement with the criminal justice system.

Introduced as SB917