A new department would be better able to focus on the reformation of non-violent offenders and save tax dollars
On Monday, the Pennsylvania Senate passed State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s (R, Montgomery, Bucks) legislation that would consolidate the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole. The combined agency will be re-named the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This is being done through two pieces of legislation, SB 859 and SB 860.
The consolidation is expected to result in cost savings and increased efficiencies in the operation of our state prisons and parole services.
There is already significant overlap in the operation of the two agencies. Currently, community corrections centers are operated and staffed by the Department of Corrections, but the residents of the centers are entirely parolees. The Board of Probation and Parole assigns institutional parole agents to work inside state prisons. The Office of Victim Advocate is staffed and funded by both agencies. Given the overlap, it makes sense to consolidate their resources while continuing to allow the Parole Board to make independent decisions regarding parole.
“I introduced this legislation to accomplish two important goals—saving tax dollars and continuing to improve our corrections system that focuses on the rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders,” said Senator Greenleaf.
The legislation is expected to reduce recidivism. Studies have consistently found that expediting prisoners’ release and providing appropriate supervision decreases the likelihood they will reoffend. Under the bill, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will assume the supervision of parole agents and employ a broader range of tools to supervise parolees. The savings achieved by eliminating overlapping functions will be reinvested in the hiring of agents to provide better monitoring of parolees. The legislation will require that parole agents receive training in social work so that they will be better equipped to guide parolees toward a law-abiding lifestyle.
“I thank my colleagues for recognizing the importance of this legislation,” said Senator Greenleaf. “This would be a significant move towards a corrections system focused on the successful reformation of the individual and their reintegration into society.”
The House of Representatives may now consider SB 859 and SB 860.