Senate Passes Comprehensive Probation Reform

Harrisburg — The Senate today approved probation reform measures aimed at reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the system while better integrating probationers into society, Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) said.

Senate Bill 913 provides an opportunity for early release from probation and ensures fewer individuals return to prison by offering incentives that reward positive behavior and participation in education, employment, vocational and drug treatment programming shown to reduce recidivism.

Among other goals, the measure is intended to prevent cases in which technical violations, such as a minor traffic offense, can perpetually extend the clock on an offender’s term and result in re-confinement.

The bill also establishes a mandatory probation review conference for probationers, criteria for when they occur, and a presumption that probation will be terminated unless the individual does not qualify. Additionally, the bill will allow for the review conference to occur earlier based on the good conduct of defendants by achieving certain educational, employment, or other goals. The review conference could be waived in cases where all stakeholders agree it is unnecessary.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 904, to allow probation meetings to be held remotely, and Senate Bill 905, to improve the scheduling of probation and parole meetings.

The bills will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Contact: Matt Azeles mazeles@pasen.gov