Pennsylvania Probation Reform - Part 1

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 04, 2021 | 0 Comments

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.

LLF Law Firm 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 them to go to bat for you. Get in touch with the LLF Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686 or by clicking here.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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