Mixed reactions follow probation bill amendments

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The House Judiciary Committee voted on Monday to approve House Bill 1555, also known as the Smart Probation and Parole Act.

Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of people under correctional supervision, like probation or parole, in the country. ​

“The government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to incarcerate people for things that aren’t even a crime, like missing a probation meeting or failing to pay restitution,” said Jessica Jackson, chief advocacy officer for the REFORM Alliance. “This bill will hopefully go a long way to fix the probation system here in Pennsylvania.”​

The bill originally would have set caps on how long people could serve time on probation, and allow people to end their sentences early if they don’t have any violations.​

But an amendment changed the bill ahead of Tuesday’s vote, getting rid of those reforms, and adding new ones, like giving probation officers more authority to conduct searches on people under supervision and allowing judges to deny medical marijuana for patients.​

Supporters say the amendment is a compromise to get the bill to the House floor.​

The ACLU of Pennsylvania dropped its support of the bill, saying in a statement, “This is no longer a reform bill. Instead, it is a danger to civil liberties that will harm people on probation.”​

Despite the change, the bill still passed out of committee with bipartisan support.​

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