Leaders of the Pennsylvania House and Senate Judiciary Committees said they will introduce legislation this year to strip the Parole Board of most of its authority as a way to reduce prison overcrowding. The lawmakers said the number of state inmates would decline by at least 5,000 over IO years by allowing most inmates to leave prison when their minimum prison terms end. It would also make sentencing more objective and understandable by the public, they said.
Sen. Steward Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Pennsylvania is one of only two states that has both sentencing guidelines and a fully powered Parole Board. "We are operating under a system detrimental to both inmates and institutions," Greenleaf said. "Our antiquated system employs guidelines for sentencing, but at the time of parole eligibility the system essentially retries the inmate at the end of his sentence in what is often perceived as an arbitrary and highhanded manner."
The legislation would still allow inmates to be kept in prison for parole violations or serious prison misconduct. Those decisions would be made by the Corrections Department. Corrections Commissioner Joseph Lehman also supports the package.
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