October 23, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/
-- With a stroke of his pen in July 2012, Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett changed markedly the state's policies that affect those convicted of crimes going forward.
Specifically, the Criminal Justice Reform Act chips away at the long-standing state practice of automatically locking up criminals and throwing away the proverbial key by largely moving nonviolent offenders
away from the general penitentiary population and attempting true rehabilitation.
Amazingly for such a far-reaching measure, the bill passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously.
However, the move toward more treatment and a reduced need for new brick-and-mortar prisons makes sense fiscally, something these politicians were able to get behind. Interestingly, current financial realities are the impetus for a new, hard look at a rehabilitative criminal-justice philosophy that was more accepted 40 to 50 years ago.
And the numbers have been mushrooming out of control, especially in a time of tight governmental budgets and belt tightening. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
- The Pennsylvania state prison population is almost 52,000 inmates.
- This population has ballooned 40 percent in the past 12 years or so.
- With one more under construction, the state is home to 26 penitentiaries, currently 4,000 over capacity.
- The state recidivism rate (rate of reoffending) is about 44 percent.
- The state budget for criminal corrections is a shocking $1.86 billion.
- The new law should decrease the prison population by up to 4,000 over four years and cut costs by up to $370 million over five years.
The major provisions of and policies behind the law include:
- Nonviolent criminals like those who committed certain drug offenses
or property crimes will be prepared for re-entry to society by appropriate substance-abuse treatment, education and job training.
- These lower-risk offenders will be more often eligible for different residential options than living with hardened criminals in high-security prisons. Options will include more community- and county-based alternatives as well as house arrest at home.
- Most parole violations
will require those in violations to re-enter incarceration in community settings rather than in penitentiaries, a practice that has apparently affected positively the recidivism rates in other states.
- Offenders whose crimes are particular misdemeanors will never be sentenced to penitentiaries.
Legislation to fund the programming called for by the new law must still be enacted. Ultimately, any savings in the corrections budget is to be invested in development of a tool to assist sentencing judges in assessing the risk of defendants reoffending, among other things.
Anyone who is the target of a criminal investigation or who faces a criminal charge of any level of severity should seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can also be an important resource for anyone on parole charged with a parole violation.
Article provided by Gover, Perry & Shore
Visit us at www.ngplawfirm.com---
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