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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 11, 2020 04:10 PM
From: Senator David J. Arnold, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Ensuring Public Safety During a Declaration of Emergency
In the near future I will be introducing legislation that will prioritize public safety during a declaration of emergency, if the need arises to release state prison inmates.

Under Title 35, Section 7301 (General authority of Governor) the Governor is responsible for meeting the dangers to this Commonwealth and people presented by disasters. More specifically, under section 7301(f)(7)(Additional powers), the Governor has the authority to “control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area, the movement of persons within the area and the occupancies of premises therein.”

During the COVID-19 emergency of 2020, the Administration decided to release up to 1,800 state inmates for fear they may contract COVID-19. This legislation is not aimed at challenging the authority of the Governor under a state of emergency, but rather put the proper protocols in place to ensure public safety.
At noted above, section 7301(f)(7) has no substantive provisions and only discusses additional powers of the Executive, leaving many questions as to how the released inmates are being monitored, if they are receiving necessary treatments, or if where they are residing will be a safe environment.

That is why I am proposing additional provisions that would have to be met, should this statute be utilized in the future by the Executive:
  • The department of corrections, having oversight authority of the released or transferred inmates, shall develop regulations, which:
    • Develop a process and procedure for the supervision of all released inmates under to include, but not limited to:
      • (a) Exclusion of those convicted of or who have a criminal history involving certain crimes, including crimes of violence; personal injury crimes, crimes involving or relating to domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse;
      • (b) monitoring of inmates using electronic global positioning system or other electronic monitoring;
      • (c) drug and alcohol testing;
      • (d) scope and depth of supervision;
      • (e) physical location and any exceptions.
  • The department shall also develop regulations:
    • That will address domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse when considering placement;
    • That develop a process and procedure for notifying victims consistent with the Crime Victims Act; and
    • That require successful completion of all prescribed department of corrections programs prior to release or transfer.
Please join me in cosponsoring this critical legislation to ensure public safety.

Introduced as SB1158