Bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation moves through House Judiciary Committee

HARRISBURG, Dec. 9 – Calling it a victory for criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania, state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., House Democratic Whip, thanked the committee chairmen and members for moving multiple pieces of legislation aimed at correcting injustices in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system.

“This is a monumental day for criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania,” Harris said. “From probation reform to occupational licensure reform to the justice reinvestment initiative, the House Judiciary Committee today voted in bipartisan fashion to say that Pennsylvania believes in criminal justice reform and we can continue to lead the nation to bringing that reform to life. No piece of legislation is perfect, but these bills are an outstanding steppingstone for criminal justice reform.”

The Judiciary Committee moved multiple bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Harris, including:

  • House Bill 1555, legislation co-sponsored with Rep. Sheryl Delozier, which would reform Pennsylvania’s antiquated probation system to make it more about rehabilitation than retribution.
  • House Bill 440, legislation sponsored by Rep. Tedd Nesbit, R-Mercer, with Harris’ H.B. 1540 amended into it, which amends Pennsylvania’s clean slate law to allow those who have completed court-ordered financial obligations to have their records automatically expunged.
  • House Bill 1477, legislation co-sponsored with Delozier, R-Cumberland, which would enact occupational licensure reform to create a fair, modern set of rules for consideration of criminal records in occupational and professional licensure.
  • House Bill 2040, legislation sponsored by Harris, which would create the Pennsylvania Second Chance Jobs Act, a publicly accessible, online job postings website where employers who are willing to hire formally incarcerated individuals can submit job postings.
  • House Resolution 634, legislation sponsored by Harris, which would create the Pennsylvania Task Force on Technical Probation Violations to review how Pennsylvania handles technical probation violations and create a report with recommendations to improve the procedures governing technical violations.

“These bills are crucial for helping ex-offenders contribute to society,” Delozier said. “They make commonsense changes to the probation system by balancing the importance of personal responsibility and reintegration into our communities. I’m thankful the committee members recognized how important this legislation is and voted to send it to the full House.”

“Pennsylvanians deserve a more just criminal justice system, and each of these bills will help achieve that,” Harris said. “From ending the quicksand-like revolving door of our probation system to lifting up formally incarcerated individuals and helping them reenter the workforce, all of these bills help accomplish that goal in a different way.”

Harris and Delozier have previously worked together on Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate legislation. Clean Slate was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in June 2018 and allows for the sealing of some criminal records. It’s expected that within the next year, nearly 30 million criminal records will automatically be sealed in Pennsylvania. The legislation was called a national model and has been undertaken by several other states.