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Columbia Justice Lab


Shaping Justice for the Future

The Pennsylvania Community Corrections Story

April 25, 2018

While rates of probation and parole supervision are declining nationally, they are growing in Pennsylvania. This new report, authored by the Justice Lab’s Vincent Schiraldi and Jennifer Arzu, finds that Pennsylvania is an outlier in terms of the rates and length of community supervision, and that people receiving parole and probation revocations make up a significant portion of the state’s prison and jail populations.

The Pennsylvania Community Corrections Story  investigates community corrections in the Keystone State in detail, and examines the context in which such high rates of supervision and revocation have developed. It concludes with recommendations to shrink the footprint of community corrections in Pennsylvania, reduce unnecessary revocations, and and focus supervision and supports on those who need it the most.

Read the report: The Pennsylvania Community Corrections Story

Leaders weigh in on The Pennsylvania Community Corrections Story:

“Pennsylvania is prison country. For too long, Pennsylvania has been drunk on incarceration and supervision to feed the political ambitions of lawmakers and prosecutors. Warehousing people doesn’t make us safer, but it does wreck our schools. As prosecutors, whose job it is to hold others accountable for their actions, we must hold ourselves to the same standard. Pennsylvania’s prosecutors have caused an epidemic of overincarceration. In Philadelphia, we are stepping up by imposing policies that turn away from excessive sentencing and excessive supervision. I ask my fellow prosecutors in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to join us.” - Larry Krasner, Philadelphia District Attorney

“This report highlights the alarming, though not completely surprising, facts about incarceration and the devastating impact that excessive rates of probation or parole has on the lives of those trying to re-enter civil society, and the personal and economic damage done to many Philadelphians and people across Pennsylvania by a flawed system that is desperately in need of reform and restructure.” - Michael Nutter, David N. Dinkins Professor of Professional Practice in Urban and Public Affairs, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, and former Philadelphia Mayor

“Meek Mill made headlines around the world last fall after he was sentenced to years in prison for popping a wheelie, breaking up a fight and getting treatment for his opioid addiction. People were shocked to learn the system could take a man away from his work, his community, and his children and send him to prison for something that wasn’t even a crime. The Pennsylvania Story tragically reveals that Meek’s experience isn’t unusual - in fact it is standard in a state where over half the  jail beds and a third of the prison beds are filled with people only there for having committed technical probation or parole violations.” - Van Jones, co-founder of #cut50 and host, The Van Jones Show

​“This Columbia Justice Lab report illustrates a system of parole and probation that inflicts harm on communities, and drives a cycle of mass criminalization and mass incarceration for Pennsylvanians, which disproportionately impacts Black and Latino people. It is outrageous that more than 50% of people in jail in Philadelphia are being held on a supervision detainer. In order to reach our mission of cutting the correctional population in #halfby2030, JustLeadershipUSA’s members and leaders across the country know that we must abandon this failed model of mass supervision and instead invest in a model of community-driven support." - Brent Cohen, Interim CEO & Vice President, JustLeadershipUSA

“Probation is an invisible net that ensnares a large population of our city, mostly people of color. These residents are constantly under threat of re-incarceration for things that are not criminal. For far too long, we have turned a blind-eye to this stark reality, and now we are all paying the social and economic price. This report presents proven, evidence-based, common-sense solutions. We should embrace this opportunity and no longer let fear stand in the way of progress.” - Keir Bradford-Grey, chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia

“Formerly incarcerated people experience parole and probation as surveillance and intrusion at work, home, and school, and a major trigger for incarceration. In Philadelphia, the unconstitutional use of probation detainers has created a jail crisis, with half of the population held on probation and parole detainers. We must invest in locally-run, community-based services for returning community members and end the expansion of an already unchecked correctional reach through electronic monitoring.” - Reuben Jones, Philadelphia Campaign Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA

 

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