Pennsylvania probation reform efforts are back in the news after a recent editorial was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The authors call upon the General Assembly to cut costs and improve safety for the citizens of Pennsylvania.
Journalists aren't the only people sounding the alarm on Pennsylvania's probation system. The ACLU calls the system “archaic and overly-punitive.” Indeed, our state's probation policies have gained a reputation as some of the strictest in the nation. Here's why critics are in favor of reform:
Technical Violations Lead to Reincarceration
Parolees are required to follow certain policies to stay in good standing with the system. They must find a stable job, place to live, and sometimes are required to meet curfews and abstain from drinking. Failure to abide by these rules means a person may be sent back to prison. These kinds of technical violations are responsible for 90 percent of reincarcerations. One in 10 new prison admissions in Pennsylvania in 2017 was already on probation.
Being on probation imposes unique barriers to finding housing, education, and employment. It's no surprise so many technical violations occur. Since excessive probation terms are actually correlated with increased recidivism, reform is a must.
Stacked Sentences Make Rehabilitation a Challenge
Pennsylvania is one of the few states with no cap on probation length. Judges are also permitted to stack sentences, with the pathway to redemption growing more and more difficult as the probation length is extended. If someone is charged with two misdemeanors, for instance, a judge may stack the terms of their parole, drawing out the penalty for a decade – or more.
This means impromptu visits from probation officers, drug tests, and other disruptions to daily life. These disruptions often give employers pause when deciding whether or not to hire someone on probation. Without consistent employment, a person may wind up inadvertently in violation of their probation and wind up back behind bars. It's no surprise that the process ends up feeling like a “Kafkaesque hell.”
Powerful Advocacy When You Need it Most
There is hope for change to this punitive system. Editorials like the one published in the Inquirer help to raise awareness while offering pathways for reform. Be on the lookout for part two in our series on Pennsylvania probation reform, where we'll detail some of the ideas that other states have put in place to address the issues faced by those on probation.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. The future may seem uncertain – especially if you're navigating the complex and punitive probation system. Allow Joseph Lento to go to bat for you. Get in touch with the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686 or by clicking here.