Greenleaf continues push for criminal justice reform with 26 measures ranging from doing away with mandatory minimum sentences to drug offender rehabilitation and grand jury reform

During the 2017-2018 legislative session, State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf has maintained a list of ongoing initiatives aimed at correcting injustices in the criminal justice system.  The Senator has passed many measures in recent years aimed at both victim protection and rehabilitation for non-violent offenders.

Overall, Senator Greenleaf has introduced 83 bills and 7 resolutions for the current legislative session.  One has been enacted— Act 22 of 2017—a law allowing for the use of police worn body cameras and public access to police footage.

Criminal Justice Legislation in the 2017-18 Session

  • Senate Bill 560: Expands the authority of law enforcement agencies under the Wiretap Act to use audio and video recording technology during encounters with citizens and interviews of suspects. Permits the public to access law enforcement recordings under certain circumstances.

          Status: Enacted as Act 22 of 2017. 

  • Senate Bills 522 and 523: Consolidates the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole into a single agency. Creates greater efficiency and communication where the agencies’ functions overlap. Permits better coordination to achieve positive outcomes for offenders.

Status: Passed the Senate on May 24, 2017.  Referred to the House Judiciary Committee. *This initiative was recently (Oct. 19th) accomplished administratively via a Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies. 

  • Senate Bill 49: Probationary License Revisions. Makes a probationary driver’s license available sooner to a habitual offender whose driving privileges have been revoked.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

  • Senate Bill 59: Prison Industry Enhancement. Allows the Department of Corrections and county prisons to join a federal program in which they partner with private industry to employ prison inmates. Provides “real world” job skills and instills the habit of going to work, while providing “real world” wages that will pay for restitution to crime victims and support for family members of the inmate.

Status: Reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Currently tabled in the Senate.

  • Senate Bill 60: Theft of Precious Metals. In order to stem the tide of property crimes by addicted offenders, the bill expands the period of time during which precious metals dealers must retain items and authorizes police to seize items when they suspect that theft has occurred.

Status: Reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Currently tabled in the Senate.

  • Senate Bill 61: Criminal defense for the indigent. Creates a training center for public defenders and other attorneys who defend the indigent in criminal proceedings. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that provides no direct funding for indigent criminal defense.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 62: Implements findings of a Joint State Government Commission study of the effects of parental incarceration on children. Addresses the standard for termination of parental rights when a parent is incarcerated and the training police receive regarding how to treat children during the arrest of a parent.

Status: Reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Currently tabled in the Senate.

  • Senate Bill 63: Creates a “safety valve” allowing judges to deviate from mandatory minimum sentences when such sentences would result in grave injustice to the defendant.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 223: Juvenile Act amendments. Implements a Joint State Government Commission study to establish a minimum age below which murder charges cannot be filed and lower mandatory sentences for juveniles facing second degree murder charges.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 554: Creates a Safe Harbor for human trafficking victims so that these children will not be prosecuted for prostitution and related offenses. Recognizes that these children are victims of physical and psychological abuse, not perpetrators of crime.

Status: Passed the Senate on April 25, 2017. Referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 599: Assisted Outpatient Treatment (“Kendra’s Law”). Enables persons with severe mental illness to get court-ordered treatment in the community by modifying the standard for commitment under the Mental Health Procedures Act.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

  • Senate Bill 742: Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. Creates a right for sexual assault victims to have a forensic medical examination performed free of charge and to have evidence preserved until the maximum applicable statute of limitations expires. Entitles victims to updates about the evidence being tested and directs certain agencies to develop a standard protocol for communicating with sexual assault victims in a trauma-informed manner.

Status: Reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Currently awaiting consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  • Senate Bill 854: Removes the offense of “interference with custody of children” from the Tier I sexual offenses for which a person must register with the Pennsylvania State Police. Avoids sex offender registration for an offense involving no sexual misconduct.

Status: Reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Awaiting second consideration in the Senate.

  • Senate Bill 855: Requires notifications to defendants about the collateral consequences of pleading guilty or being convicted by a jury. Provides a mechanism by which offender may receive a “certificate of rehabilitation” to present to employers and landlords.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 859: Criminal Justice and Mental Health Reinvestment Act. Establishes a grant program to assist counties in diverting from the criminal justice system individuals with mental health problems.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 860: Criminal Justice and Addiction Treatment Act. Requires a comprehensive pre-release plan for addicted offenders in prison. Requires training of law enforcement officers who encounter addicted persons. Requires insurers to provide coverage for screening and treatment referrals for addiction.

          Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Resolution 169: Urging the President and Congress to enact criminal justice reforms.

Status: Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Senate Bill 1134 of Last Session: DNA Testing for Conviction Integrity. Expands the use of DNA testing for the exoneration of offenders who claim to be innocent of the offense for which they were incarcerated.

Status: Negotiations of stakeholders nearly complete. Will be re-introduced as SB 916 in October 2017.

  • Senate Bill 1135 of Last Session: Use of Criminal Records in Employment. Provides current employees with the same protections that job applicants currently enjoy. Bars the use of past criminal convictions in employment decisions unless the conviction relates to the specific responsibilities of the position.

          Status: Will be re-introduced during this session.

  • Senate Bill 1261 of Last Session: Post-Conviction Relief Act Amendments. Expands the time period for a convicted offender to file a petition in court for post-conviction relief.

Status: Negotiations of stakeholders nearly complete. Will be re-introduced as SB 915 in October 2017.

  • Senate Bill 1274 of Last Session: Provides for compensation to people who establish that they were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated.

Status: Stakeholders will negotiate this legislation, and it will be re-introduced during this session.

  • Grand Jury Reforms: Legislation will be introduced to address the secrecy of grand juries, the role of the supervising judge, the rights of witnesses, and the rights of the person being investigated.
  • Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Senator Greenleaf participated in the working group of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and will introduce legislation to implement the group’s work, especially with regard to support for adult county probation departments.
  • Diversion from Arrest for Those with Addiction or Mental Illness: As part of the reform of our state’s bail practices, Senator Greenleaf will introduce legislation to require assessments at various points in the criminal justice system to determine whether a person should be diverted to treatment.
  • Fines and Fees: Senator Greenleaf will introduce legislation to ensure that offenders will not be incarcerated solely because they could not pay fines and fees imposed on them.
  • Juvenile Justice Issues: Determine whether juvenile detention facilities are the best option for long-term outcomes, or whether at-home services would be preferred; determine whether a “Close to Home” initiative – similar to New York’s program – would work well in Pennsylvania.