Senate Judiciary Committee Examines Probation and Parole Reform

HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee held a pair of hearings with criminal justice experts this week to examine ways to improve the current probation and parole system.

The hearings focused on Senate Bill 14, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Senator Anthony Williams (D-8) to update probation policies to reduce the amount of time and money that is devoted to probationers who have completed their sentences.

The bill would limit the length of probation terms, provide a system of early termination of supervision for good behavior, and change the way that technical violations are handled when no crime is committed.

“The goal of probation and parole should be to help people turn their lives around and re-integrate into the community, but certain policies and practices can have the opposite effect,” Bartolotta said. “My thanks goes out to Committee Chairs Senator Lisa Baker and Senator Larry Farnese for highlighting this issue, and I look forward to working with them to advance this bill with the testimony we gathered over the course of the past two days.”

Bartolotta pointed out that Pennsylvania spends $100 million annually to incarcerate individuals who commit technical parole violations, such as missing curfew or getting a speeding ticket, which she said does nothing to improve public safety or serve the interests of taxpayers.

Video of Bartolotta’s remarks at the hearing is available here.

Justice Action Network Deputy Director Jenna Moll testified that 17,600 Pennsylvanians had their probation revoked due to a technical violation in 2017 alone.

“Technical violations are both common and frustrating for probation agencies to handle,” Moll said. “This one-size-fits-all response is expensive, eliminates any advancement made towards a productive and law-abiding life, and is disproportionate to the underlying issue.”

The committee also heard testimony and recommendations from Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association Director of Legislation and Policy Greg Rowe and District Attorneys Fran Chardo (Dauphin County) and Stephanie Salavantis (Luzerne County). Some of the recommendations include giving judges additional authority to terminate probation early, provide credits for time served without violations, and limiting sanctions for technical violations.

“Probation typically works when it is correctly targeted both in terms of length of time and intensity of supervision,” Chardo said. “Our criminal justice system can be improved when we work collaboratively. Improving probation should be no different.”

A panel of judges from Blair, Lackawanna, Philadelphia and Wayne counties also offered recommendations to ensure the parole and probation system achieves the goals of improving public safety and reducing recidivism, including creating strong guidelines for administrative violations, prohibitions on split sentencing, probation caps, and resentencing of offenders incarcerated due to probation revocation.

A complete lineup of testifiers and video of both hearings are available at 

CONTACT:   Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

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