Sept. 3, 2020, Harrisburg, Pa. — The Commonwealth Foundation is honored to have earned the 2020 Bob Williams Award: Biggest Win for Freedom, presented by the State Policy Network. The award recognizes our sustained effort over several years to make Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system fairer and our communities safer by working to enact phase two of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI 2).
Commonwealth Foundation’s President and CEO Charles Mitchell issued the following statement in reaction to this accolade:
The entire Commonwealth Foundation staff and I are humbled and honored to have received this year’s biggest win award from the State Policy Network.
At the end of 2019, we were elated when the Pa. General Assembly passed two bills that firmly establish our commonwealth as a national leader on criminal justice reform. Our staff had worked diligently for five years to build a broad coalition of support and to provide the policy analysis necessary to make these reforms happen. As with the federal First Step Act, it was fantastic to see Democrats and Republicans come together to make our communities safer and provide returning citizens with a meaningful path away from crime and toward independence.
Nothing could be better than to add the prestigious Bob Williams Award to this victory. Thank you to the State Policy Network for this unrivaled commendation. We look forward to continuing to be passionate advocates of smart, safe, and effective criminal justice reform.
The award specifically recognizes Commonwealth Foundation’s work to help enact two bills (SB 500 and 501) that will increase public safety, control spending, and help returning inmates become productive members of society. This bipartisan package includes better access to drug treatment; automatic parole for certain non-violent short-term offenders; improved data-sharing on potential parolees; increased resources and training for overwhelmed county-level probation departments; improved sentencing practices; and increased system efficiency.
Since the first phase of JRI, Pennsylvania has experienced a 29 percent drop in crime, seen historic declines in prison population, and reduced the Dept. of Corrections budget by 23.3%. JRI 2 builds on that success by implementing proven reforms supported by an array of stakeholder that will enhance the commonwealth’s justice system.
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