Pa. One Step Closer to Fairer Corrections System, Safer Communities with Bipartisan Justice Reforms

December 9, 2019, Harrisburg, Pa. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee took an important step toward making Pennsylvania’s corrections system more efficient, more cost-effective, and better equipped to protect public safety with bipartisan approval of Justice Reinvestment Initiative 2 (JRI 2) bills—Senate Bills 500, 501, and 502.

Stephen Bloom, Commonwealth Foundation Vice President, issued the following statement in response to today’s committee vote:

These reforms are smart on crime—prioritizing correctional resources on violent and dangerous criminals while helping ensure our justice system achieves the dual goals of decreasing incarceration and protecting public safety.

Pennsylvania will thrive as more individuals achieve independence. JRI 2 enables the criminal justice system to forge a realistic path to community and workforce reintegration instead of perpetuating recidivism. In the process, our communities will become safer and taxpayer burdens will become lighter.

The savings offered by these reforms will be reinvested at the county level where resources are most needed. Bipartisan committee advancement is a meaningful step toward transitioning individuals out of the corrections system and prioritizing resources where they’ll be most impactful.

We commend House Judiciary Chairman Rob Kauffman and members of the committee for working closely with stakeholders to promote a fairer corrections system and safer communities.

Since the first phase of JRI in 2012, Pennsylvania has experienced an 18 percent drop in crime simultaneous to historic declines in our state prison population.

JRI 2 builds on that success, implementing proven reforms designed by a diverse array of stakeholders—including legislators, police officers, district attorneys, judges, and county commissioners—to enhance justice in the commonwealth.

In addition to passing JRI 2, the committee voted to advance House Bill 1555. This legislation places reasonable, presumptive caps on probation while incentivizing good behavior, ultimately keeping more individuals out of prison and simultaneously keeping dangerous offenders where they belong.

House Bill 1477 also won committee approval. The bill removes occupational licensing barriers, helping Pennsylvanians with criminal records find jobs. Similar legislation was passed by the state Senate in November.

Finally, House Bill 440, was passed. It expands upon the lauded Clean Slate Act by sealing the records of those who are fully acquitted or unconditionally pardoned of all charges, allowing people who are wrongfully accused of crimes to live full lives.

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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