Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Agenda

HARRISBURG – A bipartisan agenda for reforming troubling aspects of criminal justice was advanced today, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“These bills fill gaps where unfortunate incidents have shown existing law to be insufficient in protecting the public,” Baker said.

The legislation approved includes:

HB 256 seeks to address wrongdoing by those already convicted of a crime, as well as those charged with enforcing the law.  Since 2015, there have been 3,751 instances of inmates assaulting corrections staff.  The bill clarifies and penalizes this behavior in order to help curb this violence.  An amendment also makes it a crime for law enforcement officers to engage in sexual conduct with a person in custody, such as the case of a Wilkes-Barre police officer who allegedly coerced four different women while he was on duty.

HB 1855 or “Markie’s Law,” was introduced in memory of Markie Mason, an 8-year-old boy who was brutally stabbed to death last summer.  His killer was a recent parolee released early at the conclusion of his minimum sentence for a previous homicide.  He was also convicted of two separate assaults on other inmates while serving his sentence.  The measure postpones parole consideration for inmates following any violent offences committed while incarcerated.

SB 1204 and HB 1984 allows victims of rape or incest to more easily terminate the parental rights of the rapist. Currently, the courts require a mother to identify a replacement adoptive parent for her child before terminating the rights of the abuser.

SB 1158 is a response to the release of inmates during COVID-19.  It would require the governor to demonstrate that an emergency or disaster creates a danger to inmates before a release and transfer program can be implemented.  It also outlines various requirements that must be met to ensure public safety.


Jen Wilson

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