The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate approved a bill overhauling the state's probation system, News From The States reports. The bill, which now goes to the state's House, has given hope to reformers who have criticized the state's one-size-fits-all approach for limiting efforts by people who were incarcerated to return to society and avoid reoffending. The Senate vote was overwhelmingly in favor, at 45-4. Republican Senator Lisa Baker, who supported the bill, said, “We have passed laws in recent years to offer people who complete their sentences a second chance,” but the state “will not fully realize the benefits of these changes if we don’t address the problems” posed by the current probation system.
The bill would help people “safely exit the supervision system in a timely manner,” according to an analysis by the REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice advocacy group that has spent years pushing for the changes. It also would narrow the legal definition of technical violations and the circumstances under which people are returned to custody because of them, that analysis indicated. Pennsylvania has a 64% recidivism rate, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro said, meaning that nearly two-thirds of “the people who walk out of our prisons will go back, many of them for nonviolent, technical parole violations."