New state bill would limit length of probation sentences

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There has been plenty of talk this year by lawmakers, as well as the governor, about reforming the state’s criminal justice system.  Now, a new bill introduced in the State Senate aims to do that by reforming the state’s probation system.

Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation Stephen Bloom says, “Corrections reform is about improving public safety and investing in people; not simply funding prisons.”

He says the state’s current probation system is long overdue for a change, with nearly 74,000 people on probation in Pennsylvania in 2015.  “Many because they simply got tangled up in administrative red tape.”

Senator Camera Bartolotta is joining other lawmakers to introduce Senate Bill 14, saying, “An individual who receives a traffic violation should not receive a prison sentence just because that violation occurred while they were on probation.”

The bill limits the length of probation sentences, imposing a maximum of three years for misdemeanors and five years for felonies.

Bartolotta says, “Thirty other states have already responsibly put a cap on probation sentences.”

The bill also makes sure probation cannot be extended for failure to pay fees, fines, or restitution, and allows for reduced probation for good behavior.

Senator Anthony Williams says it will allow “…more people to get off probation if they are productive members of our society.”

Pennsylvania spends about $200 million a year incarcerating people for probation violations.  Supporters of the bill hope it can help close that revolving door.

Senator Sharif Street says, “It’ll save us money and it will provide a higher quality of justice to each and every Pennsylvanian.”

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