In this polarized political climate, it's rare that Republicans and Democrats agree on anything. But senators from both parties in Pennsylvania are coming together to push a bill that would tremendously change the state's criminal justice system. The bill, known as Senate Bill 14, would overhaul the state's probation laws to reduce the financial and human expenses of high incarceration rates.
As of now, Pennsylvania has no restrictions on how long someone can stay on probation. SB14 would limit probation periods and how long a person is eligible to be sent to a state or county prison for violations. If passed, the state's probation period will be capped off at five years for felonies and three years for misdemeanors. In addition to probation caps, there would be a bar against probationary period extensions requested by judges for a defendant's inability to pay restitution or for minor violations, like ones involving dress codes. PA has fallen behind in comparison to other states when it comes to probation reform, as it's one of the last states to restrict probation violations and the length of probation periods.
Democrats have vehemently pushed the bill as a humanitarian effort to shrink the state's prison population after decades of a “tough-on-crime” approach to legislation and sentencing. While Republicans tout that the bill will drastically reduce skyrocketing taxpayer costs associated with the current probation system.
As of December, there were a total of 8,683 offenders on probation and 32,622 on parole statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Board. These totals do not include county probation and parole records.
The legislation was inspired by rapper Meek Mill's case. Robert Rahmeek Williams, who goes by Meek Mill, is a Philadelphia native who has been on probation since 2008. He was sentenced to two to four years in prison for a technical probation violation in 2017. Meek Mill's fame coaxed the country to shine its light on Pennsylvania's flawed probation system, warranting much criticism from onlookers. Since his release, he's strived towards loosening probation guidelines and has put pressure on states who have yet to make efforts towards reform. Of course, his home state, Pennsylvania, was the first place he wanted to see change.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
A significant part of being adequately prepared for your case entails seeking the help of an experienced attorney. A legal professional who defends criminal defense cases will know the ins and outs of the process and can get you on a course of action that ideally fits your needs. Attorney Joseph D. Lento brings a wealth of experience to the table, as he's successfully handled numerous cases just like yours. But most importantly, his familiarity with the overall process can be a source of comfort for you in one of the most stressful times of your life. For more information about his representation or how he can help you, contact him online or by phone today at 215-535-5353.