HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a bipartisan package of criminal justice reforms today that could reduce prison and probation costs, better protect crime victims and strengthen public safety.
The measures, sponsored by Senators Lisa Baker (R-20), Tom Killion (R-9), Camera Bartolotta (R-46), Vince Hughes (D-7) and Art Haywood (D-4), would help county governments better assess probation risks and identify offenders who could benefit from intermediate punishment programs.
The criminal justice reform package would result in lower rates of incarceration and reduced costs to taxpayers, while at the same time reinvesting a portion of those savings into improved communication regarding compensation and services for crime victims.
Senate Bill 500, sponsored by Baker, would create a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee to help counties better assess the unique risks and needs of probationers to reduce incarceration and cut costs to taxpayers. Adult probation departments across the state would be supported financially and trained on best practices to achieve better outcomes for offenders. A special provision will ensure that future expenditures never exceed the savings realized.
“For years now, people have been demanding that state government become more cost conscious and more efficient,” Baker said. “An overhaul of our correctional policies attacks one of the controllable cost drivers in the state budget and is intended to improve community safety by putting in place more effective approaches to crime and punishment. Also noteworthy is the commendable bipartisan cooperation that continue to mark this effort."
Senate Bill 501, sponsored by Killion, would streamline the placement of offenders in drug treatment programs and other intermediate punishment programs, and improve and expedite the parole process for non-violent offenders.
“Breaking the cycle of addiction by streamlining the placement of offenders in drug treatment will make our criminal justice system more efficient, better protect our communities and reduce burden we ask taxpayers to bear,” Killion said.
Senate Bill 502, sponsored by Bartolotta, Hughes and Haywood, would help improve communications with crime victims and ensure they receive any compensation they are owed.
“Providing for the needs of crime victims is an essential part of the criminal justice system, but in too many cases, victims feel left out of the entire process,” Bartolotta said. “Our legislation will ensure that every victim understands their important role in the system and receives any compensation they are owed.”
The package of bills builds on the success of Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) measures approved in 2012 to reduce prison costs to taxpayers and reinvest the savings in programs to improve public safety.
Over the past six years, the inmate population in state prisons has been reduced by more than 4,000, and the crime rate has decreased by approximately 18 percent, saving $400 million in projected costs to taxpayers.