Legislators vow to fight Pa. Commission on Sentencing's risk-assessment tool

HARRISBURG, Sept. 6 – Following their votes today to reject the new risk-assessment tool by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, state Rep. Joanna McClinton and Sen. Sharif Street said they vow to push for their legislation that would repeal the commission’s mandate to create a such a tool.

“I voted to reject the risk-assessment tool because I have serious concerns that it is not the best way to reduce recidivism and keep people safe in my community and across the Commonwealth. I strongly believe that the mandate requiring the commission to create a new risk-assessment tool needs to be repealed and I will continue to work closely with Senator Street and my colleagues to pass legislation that would abolish that mandate,” McClinton said. 

Under this risk-assessment tool passed Thursday, when a person scores high- or low-risk based on the risk-assessment instrument, they would be flagged for further assessment of their risk of recidivism and need for treatment or support. The plan permits county probation departments to put these people through whatever assessment they use.

Street said, “For almost a decade, the sentencing commission has worked – under a legislative mandate – to create a risk-assessment tool with the goal of reducing costs and decreasing the prison population. Senator Greenleaf, author of the original legislation, has denounced this version of the risk-assessment tool as having the adverse effect of its intent. So too have the numerous advocates, stakeholders and social scientists that have offered testimony. While it has been refined, the current risk-assessment tool is flawed, discriminatory in its nature. It is now time for the legislature to act; I urge my colleagues to join me in repealing the mandate.”

McClinton said, “Other key leaders in the criminal justice field have echoed the same concerns. Not only does the head of the County Probation Association strongly oppose this risk-assessment tool, but the Philadelphia Bar Association, citizens and advocate groups from across the state stand against it. We cannot allow a judge to put someone in a box when they have a family to support and bills to pay. They should be granted another chance to put their best foot forward and work to become a productive member of society.”

She added that she has proposed legislation (H.B.1799) that would repeal the mandate for the commission to create a risk-assessment tool. Street has similar legislation (S.B. 474) in the Senate.