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Hearing on Justice Reinvestment Before the House Judiciary Committee June 17, 2019 Testimony of Fran Chardo, Dauphin County District Attorney and Greg Rowe, Director of Legislation and Policy, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association

Good morning, Chairmen Kauffman and Briggs, and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Fran Chardo, and I am the District Attorney of Dauphin County. With me is Greg Rowe, the Director of Legislation and Policy for the District Attorneys Association. On behalf of my colleagues at the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

JRI 2 began in 2016 and included many important stakeholders who provided valuable insight into the JRI discussions. Indeed my predecessor, Ed Marsico, served on the JRI workgroup, and Greg attended and participated in the meetings as well. As you know, the Council of State Governments (CSG) performed the bulk of the research and analysis for the workgroup. One of the most invaluable legacies of JRI is the extensive data collection and analysis by CSG.

While the JRI legislative package contains a number of significant changes, there are two that would have the largest effect on the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system. The first—contained in SB 501— would streamline the process by which an eligible offender is admitted to our State Intermediate Punishment Program, although the program itself would not change. SB 501 would remove some of the operational inefficiencies regarding admission to the program. Instead of having an eligible offender first assessed by the Department of Corrections after his conviction and then having the court determine whether the offender should enter the program, the legislation makes it simpler, with the goal that more individuals will be admitted to the program. Any objections to sending the otherwise eligible offender to SIP would need to be made at sentencing, and the DOC would subsequently determine whether the eligible offender is suitable for the program if the Commonwealth has not objected or the judge has not excluded the individual from the program. Second, the legislation would make parole automatic in most cases where an offender meets the eligibility criteria for RRRI (our earned-time credit program) and enters the DOC with 2 or fewer years on his or her minimum sentence. Those offenders are less violent because they cannot have committed a personal injury crime in order to be eligible. The legislation effectively makes their parole at minimum automatic, unless they have had a major misconduct at DOC or have a pending felony charge or outstanding felony arrest.

Here is why this legislative package is called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative: the cost savings from these initiatives would be reinvested within the criminal justice system. Indeed, a significant portion of these cost savings would be specifically reinvested into county probation. This is the crux of JRI: reinvesting cost savings in order to make our communities safer by reducing the likelihood of recidivism. Stopping the cycle of criminal activity at the county level will be enhanced if our probation officers have more tools and resources at their disposal. Providing additional resources will allow them to focus on those that need intervention, and doing so will no doubt increase the likelihood that we can reduce recidivism.

It goes without saying that our criminal justice system can be significantly enhanced if there were more and additional resources and investments put into it, such as more long-term drug treatment and additional resources for those with significant mental health issues. While doing either or both of these would require significant infusions of dollars, the result would ultimately be less crime and fewer victims. The CSG and DOC are working on a mental health project, called Stepping Up, in Dauphin County to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in prison. I am especially grateful to Secretary Wetzel for his tremendous leadership on this program, which we hope can become a model state-wide. But my larger point is this: as we improve the criminal justice system, let us not forget about investing time, resources, other efforts into helping to prevent crime by those with criminogenic needs.

The JRI legislation also will provide that district attorneys provide the Office of Victim Advocate victim information in personal injury cases or cases involving crimes of violence. Doing so will allow OVA to help ensure appropriate notification of and work with crime victims.

I also wanted highlight two areas we will need to consider further. As you know there has been a considerable amount of discussion about probation reform. Along with many other stakeholders, we have been extensively involved in discussions with Representatives Delozier and Harris about how to appropriately reduce the number of Pennsylvanians on probation and to ensure only the appropriate cases result in revocations that return a probationer to incarceration. JRI was drafted well before probation reform garnered the public attention that it has, and it includes provisions intended to achieve some of the same goals. For example, SB 501 authorizes the Sentencing Commission to promulgate probation guidelines, which is an appropriate way of trying to ensure the most appropriate terms of probation. We believe the discussions about Representative Delozier’s probation reform legislation and JRI language—especially as it relates to probation reform and the powers of the Sentencing Commission—need to be evaluated together in order to achieve the most optimal outcomes.

Second, under current law, if the court imposes a fine of over 60 dollars, then 70 percent of that extra amount goes to the county victim’s fund and 30 percent to the Commonwealth. For very technical reasons, the language in SB 502 would have the 70 percent portion go to the state victim’s compensation fund instead of going to county victims’ funds. We would respectfully request that the current process continue, and we have worked with PCCD in drafting language to do so.

Thank you again for inviting us to this hearing. Changes to the criminal system that are collaborative, thoughtful, data-driven, and victim-sensitive are positive, and the process here has achieved these goals. We look forward to continuing to work with all of you as the process leading to the hopeful enactment of JRI 2 continues.

PDAA Praises Advancement of “Sextortion” Bill

Legislation to criminalize sexual extortion moves on to the Senate HARRISBURG, PA -- A bill to make sexual extortion illegal in Pennsylvania passed the state House today by a vote of 195-0 and is headed to the Senate. The vote today was particularly timely, after earlier this week the FBI issued a warning to parents that ‘sextortion’ cases involving children are

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Former Somerset County DA Jerry Spangler Named PDAA Traffic Safety Resource Officer

Harrisburg, PA -- The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Institute (PDAI) announced today that Jerry Spangler has been appointed Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP).  In this role, Spangler will serve as a source for law enforcement and county district attorneys in dealing with highway safety cases, including Driving Under the Influence cases and will be a liaison to several state highway safety

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“Recreational marijuana is not safe or harmless” Legalizing recreational marijuana would have negative effects on public health and safety.

(HARRISBURG, PA) -- The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association testified today at a Senate and House Democratic Policy Committee hearing that legalizing recreational marijuana consumption and trade would have a considerable negative effect on public health and public safety. “Our opposition stems from science, research and data, as well as information from our drug addiction specialists,” said Berks County District Attorney and past PDAA President

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Testimony of John Adams Immediate Past President, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association Berks County District Attorney Before the House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees Hearing on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Good Morning Chairman Sturla and Chairwoman Boscola and members of the House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees. My name is John Adams, and I am the District Attorney of Berks County. I am also the immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and a member of the PDAA Executive Committee. Before I was elected District Attorney as a

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PA District Attorneys Association Urges Passage of Strangulation Law to Better Protect Victims

Harrisburg, PA  -- Strangulation is a violent crime, and the law should fully recognize this dangerous form of physical violence the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) said today.  Legislation that would codify the existing crime of strangulation into Pennsylvania law passed the state House yesterday. The PDAA urges the Senate to take action on the bill this spring. “Strangulation is one

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Informational Hearing on Sexual Extortion Before the House Judiciary Committee March 26, 2019

Testimony of Greg Rowe , Director of Legislation & Policy, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and Sean McCormack, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office. Click here to download the official testimony. Good morning Chairmen Kauffman and Briggs and members of the House Judiciary Committee.  We are pleased to be here today to discuss the creation of a new crime of sexual extortion. 

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PDAA Appoints Lindsay E. Vaughan New Executive Director

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) today announced that Lindsay E. Vaughan has been appointed its new executive director. Her first day on the job will be Thursday, March 7, 2019. Vaughan assumes the role after PDAA’s previous executive director, Richard Long, was appointed Chief Counsel to the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board. “Lindsay shares our vision that improving the

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Life-saving PFA Firearms Bill Backed by PDAA Passes the House

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association congratulates the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for overwhelmingly passing legislation that will disarm domestic abusers. In a bipartisan vote today, the House approved legislation by Representative Marguerite Quinn (R-143) H.B. 2060, which will require the surrender of firearms belonging to those whom final protection from abuse orders have been ordered. The bill will also limit

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court should permit the Office of Attorney General to release the grand jury report on several Catholic dioceses without undue delay in accordance with the law.  Relatedly, we are troubled about attempts to fundamentally alter and undermine Pennsylvania’s grand jury process. Grand juries serve an important investigative purpose and, in the past, have exposed institutional and governmental

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