Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf to Lead National Criminal Justice Discussion at Governors Meeting in D.C.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf will join bipartisan governors on Saturday, February 23, in Washington, D.C., to provide remarks and help lead a discussion about criminal justice reform and the work needed to make our justice system fairer, more responsive, and more focused on rehabilitation.

Pennsylvania is leading the nation with steady advancement of commonsense, bipartisan criminal justice reforms. Among his accomplishments: First to pass a Clean Slate law; creating a fair-chance hiring policy for state government; eliminating driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions, and joining business and entertainment leaders to announce REFORM Alliance, a national criminal justice reform organization.

“I am working to make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “Helping lead this discussion by some of the country’s most informed and passionate criminal justice reform advocates will be a welcome opportunity to share what we are doing in Pennsylvania and to make the case that much more work is still needed.”

In addition to Gov. Wolf, panelists include Van Jones, Political Contributor, CNN, Co-Founder #cut50 and CEO of The REFORM Alliance; Mark Holden, Senior VP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Koch Industries, Inc.; and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf has:

  • Implemented the country’s first Clean Slate law, allowing thousands of Pennsylvanians to petition the courts for their records to be sealed if a person has been free from a conviction for 10 years for an offense that resulted in a year or more in prison and has paid all court-ordered financial debts.
  • Decreased the number of prison inmates over each of the past four years, along with reducing costs while not sacrificing public safety.
  • ‘Banned the box’ on state employee applications in a fair-chance hiring policy that removes the criminal conviction question from non-civil service employment applications under the governor’s jurisdiction.
  • Cut bureaucracy to streamline services for reentrants in the commonwealth by signing a memorandum of understanding to consolidate the functions of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole, streamlining services, removing redundancies and saving taxpayers money.
  • Signed additional legislation including smart sentencing reform and extending the time a conviction person has to file a post-conviction relief action from 60 days to one year.
  • Updated Pennsylvania’s DNA testing law to reflect significant advances in technology and the lessons learned by criminal justice professionals since 2002. The legislation removes the supervision requirement that only people serving a sentence can apply for DNA testing.

Gov. Wolf has repeatedly called for more commonsense reforms, including:

  • Pass and implement the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, or JRI 2, to address the high cost of incarceration in the state, to strengthen support for county probation programs, and to fix inadequate sentencing guidelines.
  • Reform the pre-trial system to make certain that those accused of a crime have access to competent legal counsel and a reasonable bail system.
  • Reform the post-trial criminal justice system to ensure work towards the rehabilitation of individuals and preparation to reenter society, rather than creating further risks for recidivism.
  • Focus on probation reform to ensure the right individuals have the right level of supervision and technical probation violations do not mean an immediate return to incarceration. This works hand-in-hand with first ensuring sentences are commensurate with the severity of crimes committed.

“Since I became Governor, I have worked hard to reform our system so that it leads to better outcomes and saves taxpayer dollars – while also leading to less crime and fewer victims,” Gov. Wolf said. “These efforts are working, but we must continue towards building the criminal justice system we all want to see in Pennsylvania. I look forward to the conversation with my fellow criminal justice reform advocates on how we can move these efforts forward.”