HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Democratic lawmakers in PA spoke Wednesday about the need to advance prison-reform legislation.
Democrats have proposed seven bills in total, which they are looking to gain bipartisan support for.
The bills would address a wide range of topics like medical parole, improved nutrition in prisons, and helping incarcerated veterans transition back into society.
“Out of the seven pieces of legislation, there were four pieces of it that had bipartisan support,” said State Representative Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia).
One of the major components to the legislation is focusing on behavioral correction and reintegration into society.
“We spend way too much money incarcerating people who are no longer a threat or danger to society,” said House Minority Whip, Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia).
Two of the proposals seek to provide medical parole for terminally-ill and elderly non-violent inmates.
“The cost of incarceration for geriatric individuals can be up to over $100,000, which is about 2.5 times more costly than other people,” said Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia).
“We want to allow for elderly, nonviolent inmates that have medically debilitating, or terminal ailments, a medical parole,” said Rep. Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia).
Some legislation also addresses improving prison nutrition.
“The reality is nutrition-based diseases are more prevalent in prison populations than in the general population,” said Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester/Montgomery).
There’s also legislation that seeks to help incarcerated veterans in the commonwealth, like providing veterans exiting from incarceration with a “briefing.”
“A briefing that tells them about their military and veterans’ benefits that are available to them as they move back into society,” said Rep. Joe Webster (D-Montgomery).
Rep. Webster says as many as 180,000 veterans are incarcerated in the United States, with roughly 5,000 right here in Pennsylvania.
“In this case, no matter what the circumstances and reasons that a veteran might be serving time in prison, we should also be aware that they have served our country,” said Webster.
Additional prison reform proposals include:
- Probation and Parole Reform: Earned Compliance Credits
- Alternatives to Arrest
- Inmate Visitation Rights