Scarnati: Senate Approves New Phase of Criminal Justice Reforms

(HARRISBURG) – Today the State Senate unanimously approved a bi-partisan package of criminal justice reforms to reduce prison and probation costs, better protect crime victims, and strengthen public safety, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

According to Scarnati, the legislation advanced by the Senate would help county governments better assess probation risks and identify offenders who could benefit from intermediate punishment programs.

“I am pleased that we are continuing to get our criminal justice system costs in line,” said Scarnati.  “During the last several years we have slashed over $400 million in spending while reducing crime at the same time. The bills passed today are a further continuation of criminal justice reforms and will help to continue the progress we have made.” 

Enactment of 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 improving communication with crime victims regarding compensation and services.

Senate Bill 500 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.

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.

Senate Bill 502 would help improve communications with crime victims and ensure they receive any compensation they are owed.

Scarnati explained that 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.

Senate Bills 500, 501 and 502 will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

           

CONTACT:   Kate Flessner – (717) 787-7084