HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a package of bills today designed to reduce prison and probation costs, better protect crime victims and strengthen public safety, according to Committee Chair Senator Lisa Baker (R-20).
The plan builds on the success of the 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 3.7 percent, saving $400 million in projected costs to taxpayers.
The new phase of JRI reforms (JRI2) would further reduce costs in the justice system and ensure the money saved through these reforms is put to good use by providing assistance to our county probation and parole offices in evaluating public safety risks and compensating crime victims.
“The problems caused by rapidly rising correctional costs are compelling us to seek approaches to criminal justice that will improve community safety and relieve pressure on state taxpayers,” Baker said. “The steps contained in these bills are aimed at changing how we sentence and incarcerate wrongdoers, and how we prevent recidivism, so public safety is not compromised.”
The package of JRI2 bills include proposals sponsored by Baker and Senators Tom Killion (R-9), Camera Bartolotta (R-46), Vince Hughes (D-7) and Art Haywood (D-4).
Senate Bill 500, sponsored by Baker, would create a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee to help ensure expenditures will not exceed savings from the program. The panel would 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.
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.
“This legislation will ensure that offenders get the treatment they need while implementing reforms to our parole process,” Killion said. “These changes will not only enhance our criminal justice system but will also be greatly beneficial to society.”
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.
“We need to do more to ensure that victims understand their rights and are not forced to endure even more hardships long after the crime has been committed. Many crime victims have no idea that compensation may be available to them or how to begin the process to get the money they are entitled to receive,” Bartolotta said. “My bill will help streamline the entire process and ensure more victims receive the help they need.”
Additional information on these bills is available on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s webpage at https://judiciary.pasenategop.com/.