Rabb introduces first-of-its-kind legislation to reverse school-to-prison pipeline in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, July 27 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., said he introduced legislation to create a charitable trust that would help Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable youth from becoming innocent casualties of mass incarceration.

“Our most neglected young people continue to be devastated by the school-to-prison pipeline at alarming rates. There are more than 81,000 Pennsylvania children with a parent in a prison,” Rabb said. “That absence, which some psychologists have compared to the death of a parent, through the formative years can have many harmful effects on a child.”

House Bill 1674 proposes the creation of the First Chance Trust Fund to provide support services and scholarship opportunities to young people from neighborhoods with the highest rates of incarceration across the state.

The trust would not require the use of taxpayer dollars. Instead, it would be funded by a 1 percent surcharge on all vendors that have a contract with the Department of Corrections exceeding $5 million and by private, tax-deductible donations. Other state agencies also would have the option to include such a provision in their contracts.

“Studies have consistently shown that investing in educational opportunities can significantly reduce the potential for future incarceration. We need to make these investments, especially within our most disadvantaged communities,” he said.

Corrections anticipates it would generate $500,000 to $1 million annually, with the money to be administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

“Dealing with the emotional, social and economic consequences of incarceration can trigger behavioral problems, lead to trouble in school and the possibility of dropping out and continue the cycle of crime,” Rabb said. “I’m proud to say this bill is the first of its kind in the country. It is not just a wise investment in our most marginalized communities, it is an innovative way to build community wealth while constricting the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Rabb’s legislation is a companion bill to a bipartisan proposal by Sens. Vincent Hughes, Patrick Browne, Jay Costa and Richard Alloway that was developed in collaboration with Gov. Tom Wolf and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. The bill is awaiting consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.