Justice reform groups say bill could make probation ‘hamster wheel’ worse

Pennsylvania Capital-Star, 08/13/23: “Civil rights and anti-prison groups say a probation reform bill awaiting a vote in the state House would only complicate Pennsylvania’s probation system and could lead to more people being sentenced to jail terms.

The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support in the state Senate in June, is touted to give people serving probationary sentences a clear path out of the justice system.

Pennsylvania’s system can trap people on a decades-long treadmill of court supervision where probation violations, often for minor infractions such as missing a meeting, account for more than half of all people admitted to state prison.

According to the Council of State Governments Justice Center, on any given day there are more than 7,400 people in prison for probation or parole violations at an annual cost to the state of $334 million.

Pennsylvania has the second highest percentage of its population on probation or parole at 2.8%, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics…

The ACLU noted in its communications to the House Judiciary Committee that other important stakeholders including the Philadelphia Public Defender’s Office, the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania, the Abolitionist Law Center, and the Amistad Law Project were excluded.”

Read the full story here.