Only about a month after the governor’s Justice Reinvestment Panel set forth its recommendations, many of those recommendations are fixed to become law. The prison reform bill was passed by the Senate this week and by the House of Representatives earlier in the month. Now it awaits Governor Tom Corbett’s signature.
According to the Patriot-News, the bill makes several major changes in an effort to both save money and reduce prison populations. Lawmakers, including many that once supported harsher prison sentences, are realizing that tough-on-crime approach was largely ineffective and counterproductive.
Those policies, that provided swift and extremely harsh penalties for all criminal offenders, helped lead to a 44% recidivism rate. This means 44% of the people people released from prison after serving a sentence were back behind bars within three years of their release.
The bill makes several changes in an effort to reduce this trend. It takes a more treatment-based approach. According to Rep. Glen Grell (R-Hampden Twp.), “It will allow the Department of Corrections to act a lot more intelligently in the way they deal with prisoners rather than warehousing them.”
The governor’s office estimates the changes can save the state $253 million over the next five years. Among the changes, the bill will:
- Convert community correction centers into parole violator facilities
- Expand the use of sentencing alternatives
- Create a “comprehensive re-entry program”
- Block those offenders convicted of low-grade misdemeanors from serving state time
- Send illegal immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes to immigration authorities rather than sending them to jail for their offenses
Another bill now making its way through the Senate will use some of the savings from these changes and divert them to the counties to assist with policing and probation enforcement, as well as county prisons.
This new attitude, of being smart on crime rather than just tough, is happening all over the country and is spurred, in part, by a need for states to save money. It just so happens that in the process, they may be able to help offenders live a crime-free life after their encounter with the system.
Prior to this, the thought was that sending someone to prison for the harshest penalty possible would certainly teach them a lesson and keep them, and others tempted to commit crimes, from doing so again. This simply didn’t work.
When you are accused of a crime, the courts will want to “teach you a lesson.” The prosecutor in particular will seek a conviction and tough penalty against you. It’s the job of your defense attorney to help prevent such outcomes from occurring.
Depending on the facts of your case, you still have options and may be able to avoid prison time. Contact our offices today to discuss your charges and what can be done to minimize their impact on your life.