Lawmakers vote to make changes to Pa. parole system

(Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted Tuesday to make it easier to parole lower-level, less violent offenders and to revamp the process for inmates to get drug treatment.

Representatives voted 167-29 to send the amended legislation back to the Senate.

One key provision allows the automatic parole of certain non-violent offenders after they have served a minimum sentence of two years or less, a change designed to save money and make parole more consistent and efficient.

Some provisions also provide more avenues to deal with parole violators, including a “quick dip” short-term detention of up to a week for parole violations that aren't considered serious enough to return them to prison.

It also authorizes a Corrections Department review team to examine homicides by parolees.

The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Tim Briggs of Montgomery County, said he supported the bill, even though it includes a new mandatory minimum sentence related to certain violent crimes against children. Briggs said he hoped the Senate will remove the mandatory minimum, arguing that mandatory minimum sentences do not reduce crime.

Greg Rowe with the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association said the legislation creates a simpler, streamlined process by which judges help determine who enters the Corrections Department's intensive, in-patient drug treatment program. Supporters say more inmates who are eligible for drug treatment in prison will get it.


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