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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 27, 2017 11:33 AM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes and Sen. Patrick M. Browne, Sen. Jay Costa, Sen. Richard L. Alloway, II
To: All Senate members
Subject: First Chance Trust Fund
In the near future, we will be introducing legislation, in collaboration with the Governor and state Department of Corrections (DOC), establishing a public charitable trust to help reverse the direction of prison-bound youth in Pennsylvania.

At‐risk youth continue to enter the justice system at alarming rates. Additionally, there are more than 81,000 Pennsylvania children with a parent in a prison. That absence, which some psychologists have compared to the death of a parent, through the formative years can have many deleterious effects on a child. Dealing with the emotional, social and economic consequences of that loss can trigger behavioral problems, lead to trouble in school and the possibility of dropping out and continuing the cycle of crime.

DOC currently has a number of initiatives in place to help foster family bonds, but more can, and should, be done to help at-risk youth. To that end, our legislation proposes the creation of the First Chance Trust Fund. The trust fund will be administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and would not require the use of taxpayer dollars. Instead, the trust will be funded by private, tax‐deductible donations and a 1% surcharge on all vendors that have a contract with the DOC exceeding $5,000,000. Other commonwealth agencies will also have the option to include such a provision in their contracts.

Initially, the trust fund is anticipated to generate $500,000 to $1 million on an annual basis, which will be used to create scholarships and provide grants to evidence-based programs that benefit at-risk youth. Grant and scholarship opportunities from the fund will be targeted to regions that have statistically higher high school dropout rates and risks of incarceration.

The fund, which would be the first of its kind in the country, will enable at-risk youth to get the programs they need to complete school and become healthy and productive members of society. Studies have consistently shown that investing in educational opportunities can significantly reduce the potential for future incarceration. It is imperative that we do more to make these investments, especially within our most disadvantaged communities. Doing so is not just a great investment financially, but our responsibility and the true answer to improving the criminal justice system.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please feel free to contact any of our offices. Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB790