Corrections Reform: Don’t Fire Arrows Without Arrowheads

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, commissioned by Gov. Tom Corbett and led by national corrections reform experts, generated broad bipartisan support for a reform package that will:

  • Make the corrections system more efficient by improving the parole process and keeping low-risk cases out of prison in favor of less expensive and more effective sentencing;
  • Save taxpayer dollars;
  • And improve public safety by reducing reoffending rates and reinvesting a portion of the savings back into the correctional system to bolster county corrections, law enforcement, and parole supervision.

However, these reforms need to happen as a package to be effective. 

The reform package was split into two separate pieces of legislation. 

Senate Bill 100 initiates smarter sentencing and parole practices that will save the commonwealth more than $1 million in fiscal year 2012-13, with substantial savings in subsequent years.  

  • Within five years, the net saving is projected to reach $253 million.
  • SB 100 is scheduled for a concurrence vote in the Senate this week.

House Bill 135 will be the vehicle (firewall) for reinvesting a portion of the savings achieved in SB 100 back into effective corrections-related programs and to counties to help reduce Pennsylvania’s prison population. Failing to pass both pieces limits effectiveness and delays significant savings.

  • HB 135 would provide counties necessary funding to keep nonviolent offenders with short minimum sentences in local jails instead of state prisons. This is both more effective and cost efficient, leading to substantial savings.
  • HB 135 will allow funds for evidence-based probation supervision practices, such as programs modeled after Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE). This innovative probation program provides swift, predictable sanctions on probation violators. It reduced positive drug tests in Hawaii by more than 70 percent and cut new arrests in half. Without the funding under HB 135, few counties are likely to utilize HOPE courts.
  • HB 135 is in the Senate Appropriations committee.

To achieve meaningful corrections reform, both pieces of legislation should be sent to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk by June 30.

For more information on these proven reforms, visit