Bill First Step Toward Criminal Justice Reform

February 25, 2019

Editor: Having lived on both sides of our criminal justice system and now assisting re-entrants in making a successful transition from prison back into society, I see and feel their everyday plight. As men and women attempt to embark on the next chapter in their lives after having served time, many are met with unsafe housing, scarce employment opportunities, little to no family and friends’ support and in some cases, a probation or parole agent who treats them as if they are still confined. Senate Bill 14 is a first step toward a more just system. Through developing rational and even-handed responses to technical or administrative violations, incentivizing good behavior through merit time and ensuring that probationers are provided the services they need to be successful, the co-sponsors of this legislation recognize the importance of community supervision which rehabilitates offenders. My experience working with reentrants as the founder Breaking the Chainz Inc. has revealed to me multiple stumbling blocks to success. Lack of access to safe housing, family reunification, job readiness, substance abuse treatment, anger management, financial literacy, conflict resolution, and decision making are all issues which must be addressed. As we double down on our efforts in criminal justice reform and look to cut down the recidivism rate, let us remember that prevention is better than incarceration. Without treatment, returning citizens are 13 percent more likely to be rearrested and 21 percent more likely to return to prison according, to the National Justice Bureau. While there is no easy fix to this problem that costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year, there is broad support for reforms which will support individuals who want and need assistance as they strive for change. We should continue to push for reforms which move our communities away from incarceration and toward rehabilitation. Kevin E. Dolphin Founder Breaking the Chainz Inc. HARRISBURG