CHADDS FORD — Senate Bill 501, sponsored by Senator Tom Killion and part of a bi-partisan package of criminal justice reform legislation, unanimously passed the Pennsylvania Senate Wednesday.
SB501 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.
“Emphasizing drug treatment and punishments other than incarceration is the right thing to do for taxpayers, our communities, and those convicted of non-violent crimes,” said Killion. “Breaking the cycle of addiction by streamlining the placement of offenders in drug treatment will make our criminal justice system more efficient, improve public safety and reduce the burden we ask taxpayers to bear.”
Passed along with two companion bills, SB501 is part of a Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) approach to reducing corrections spending and reinvesting savings in strategies to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. Specifically, SB501 would amend Title 42 and Title 61 to:
• Incorporate county intermediate punishment program into county probation;
• Rename the State Intermediate Punishment Program as the State Drug Treatment Program and streamline the process for placement;
• Allow parole agents to quickly detain parolees for violations; and
• Help improve the process for paroling persons who receive a short sentence to prison.
Killion noted this plan builds on the success of JRI measures approved in 2012. 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 3.7 percent, providing $400 million in projected savings to taxpayers.
These new initiatives will further reduce costs in the justice system and ensure the money saved through these reforms is put to good use by providing assistance to our county probation and parole offices in evaluating public safety risks and compensating crime victims, said Killion.
Killion thanked the PA Department of Corrections, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, other law enforcement agencies and officials and others for their input and assistance in crafting the bill. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“Addiction is a disease, and those suffering from need treatment,” said Killion. “Ensuring a non-violent offender gets the addiction treatment they need is smart, cost-effective public policy. It reduces crime, promotes rehabilitation and saves taxpayers millions of dollars a year.”