House panel hears from judges on how to fix state criminal justice system

    Pennsylvania Supreme Court chambers (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

    A panel of state judges met with the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee Tuesday to discuss the state’s criminal justice reform efforts.

    Inside the state Supreme Court building, seven judges from counties across the commonwealth expressed support for reforming mandatory restitution, probation and parole, and bail practices. 

    Judge Kai Scott, of Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, pointed to the city’s reforms under self-described progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner, whose office no longer seeks cash bail from people accused of low-level offenses. 

    Scott also expressed support for streamlining how courts handle individuals who violate the terms of their probation by committing another crime.

    She said the county is assigning the same judge to handle both the probation violation and the new criminal allegation “so people don’t sit and wait and wait and wait for long periods of times.”

    Common Pleas Judge Albert Masland, meanwhile, plugged Cumberland County’s opioid intervention court, which provides immediate services to high-risk individuals caught up in the criminal justice system to feed their addiction.

    “The goal, No. 1, is to keep people alive. No. 2 is to get them out of jail,” said Masland, who is a former state House lawmaker. 

    Launched last year, Masland said no one who has gone through the process has died of an overdose.

    Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, said he expected to hold more hearings in the future on criminal justice reform given the wide base of support to push through more changes.

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