HARRISBURG—A suite of bills aiming to reduce prison and probation costs, better protect crime victims, and strengthen public safety as part of a new phase of Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) reforms passed the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, May 1, 2019.

Since the JRI was approved in 2012, “the inmate population in state prisons has been reduced by more than 4,000, and the crime rate has decreased by approximately 3.7 percent, saving $400 million in projected costs to taxpayers,” sates a release from Senator Lisa Baker (R-20th), Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

“The problems caused by rapidly rising correctional costs are compelling us to seek approaches to criminal justice that will improve community safety and relieve pressure on state taxpayers," Baker said in a press release. "The steps contained in these bills are aimed at changing how we sentence and incarcerate wrongdoers, and how we prevent recidivism, so public safety is not compromised.”

The suite consists of Senate Bills 500, 501 and 502, sponsored by Baker and Senators Tom Killion (R-9), Camera Bartolotta (R-46), Vince Hughes (D-7) and Art Haywood (D-4).

SB 500 looks to create a County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee tasked with keeping expenditures in line with savings, help counties assess the risks and needs of those seeking probation in an effort to reduce incarceration and lower costs to taxpayers.

The bill proposes financial support for adult probation departments statewide and training on best practices “to achieve better outcomes for offenders,” states the release.

SB 501 aims to streamline offender placement into drug treatment programs and other immediate punishment programs.

The bill looks to expedite the parole process for non-violent offenders.

Killion, the bill's sponsor, stated in a press release, “These changes will not only enhance our criminal justice system but will also be greatly beneficial to society.”

Sponsored by Bartolotta, Hughes and Haywood, SB 502 aims to improve communication with crime victims to make sure they receive the proper compensation they're owed.

Bartolotta stated in a press release, “We need to do more to ensure that victims understand their rights and are not forced to endure even more hardships long after the crime has been committed.

“Many crime victims have no idea that compensation may be available to them or how to begin the process to get the money they are entitled to receive.

"My bill will help streamline the entire process and ensure more victims receive the help they need.”

—Information from a release was used in this story.