Harris, Delozier team up to form Criminal Justice Reform Caucus

HARRISBURG, Jan. 21 – Citing the successful passage of several pieces of bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation signed into law during the 2017-18 legislative session, state Reps. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., and Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, last week announced the organization of a bipartisan, bicameral Criminal Justice Reform Caucus to focus on further reforms within the criminal justice system.

“Representative Delozier and I had previous success working together in passing criminal justice reform legislation and it’s my hope that working together again, along with the formation of a bipartisan, bicameral caucus, will allow us to act as a clearing house and help move bills quickly through the House and Senate and send them to the governor,” Harris said. “People who have made minor, non-violent mistakes in the past should not be branded by those mistakes and face obstruction in their search for a job, an education or even a home for the rest of their lives. Together, we can again find ways to help people who have paid their debt to society integrate back into normal life and contribute to their communities.”

“As the sponsor of the Clean Slate Law and a long-time victims’ advocate, I am committed to making changes to the criminal justice system that give a strong voice to the rights of the victims and also work to have released offenders become productive members of our communities,” Delozier said. “We all have made stupid mistakes. Those mistakes should not define our lives. People deserve a second chance, especially those who have long ago changed their ways.”

A memo announcing the formation of the bipartisan House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus was sent to members on Wednesday, with 32 members already joining by the end of the day Friday. The caucus looks to advance policies that address issues such as barriers to employment in the occupational licensure system, education and workforce skills during incarceration, probation and parole issues and successful rehabilitation and re-entry into society. The House caucus will work closely with the Senate Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, chaired by Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Beaver/Washington/Greene, and Sen. Art Haywood, D-Montgomery/Phila.

Last session, several bills were passed relating to criminal justice reform, including:

  • Act 56, legislation that provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record seal from public view upon meeting certain requirements to avoid issues with housing, employment and educational opportunities. (Sponsored by Delozier and Harris.)
  • Act 146, legislation that lengthens the amount of time a person convicted of a crime has to file a post-conviction relief action from 60 days to one year. (Sponsored by former state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf.)
  • Act 147, legislation that updated Pennsylvania’s DNA testing statute to give further relief and access to DNA testing to those convicted of a crime. (Sponsored by former state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf.)