How Pennsylvania’s new sentencing guidelines for probation violators ‘could increase mass incarceration’

By Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia Inquirer | January 6, 2020

Stoneleigh Fellow Sangeeta Prasad spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer about the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing’s new guidelines for probation violations.

It took more than a decade after the legislature issued it a mandate, but Pennsylvania’s Commission on Sentencing has finally instituted guidelines for resentencing people who violate their probation.

What the commission came up with — a rule of thumb setting the guidelines, in most cases, back to the options available to the judge at initial sentencing — will give judges a common starting point and rein in outliers, said the commission’s executive director, Mark Bergstrom.

“It tends to bring sentences closer to the middle rather than a lot of extreme sentences,” he said.

But given that those guidelines will in many cases call for jail or prison time, it could also result in many judges imposing far harsher sentences on probation violators than they had in the past. In Pennsylvania, more than 30,000 people face resentencing each year after their probation is revoked.

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