HARRISBURG – Two significant proposals to strengthen the criminal justice system and reduce costs to taxpayers were signed into law on Wednesday, according to Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46), who supported the bills.
Senate Bill 501 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. The bill would divert many non-violent offenders with short sentences to county probation and parole systems if they meet certain qualifications. It is estimated to save the Commonwealth $45 million over the first five years.
Senate Bill 500 would redirect a portion of these savings to strengthen county probation and parole services. A County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee would be established to make funding recommendations. The committee would also be responsible for reviewing grant applications for county intermediate punishment programs.
The two bills are part of a bipartisan three-bill package that was negotiated as part of the second phase of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which will reduce prison and probation costs, better protect crime victims and strengthen public safety. Since its creation, JRI has helped reduce the inmate population in state prisons by more than 4,300, cut the crime rate by approximately 29 percent, and save $400 million in project costs to taxpayers.
The third bill in the package, Senate Bill 502 which was sponsored by Bartolotta, will reinvest savings generated through other legislation in the package into victim services. It will helps streamline the entire process and make certain more victims receive the help they need. This legislation awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.
“I am encouraged that these critical reforms are moving forward to ensure Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system is efficient for taxpayers, effective in boosting public safety, and in reintegrating non-violent offenders back into society,” said Bartolotta, who founded and co-chairs the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus. “The three bills in the JRI package were created together, negotiated together, and intended to work together to improve all aspects of the criminal justice system. While only two of the bills are getting signed into law this week, I am optimistic that we can continue to work in good faith with House leaders to complete our work on this package when we return to session in 2020.”
“While I appreciate the need to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars, I am disappointed SB 501 was amended in the House to include mandatory minimums – essentially applying a one-size-fits-all approach to problems that are far too complex for that kind of solution. Each crime and offender should be judged individually based on the circumstances of the case, not a blanket standard set by an entirely different branch of government.”
CONTACT: Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463