McClinton applauds passage of important criminal justice reform legislation

HARRISBURG, Dec. 19 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, lauded the passage this week of three major pieces of criminal justice reform legislation that she co-authored. 

The House passed the following:

  • House Bill 440, which provides for the automatic expungement of an individual’s record after an unconditional pardon or full acquittal.
  • Senate Bills 500 and 501, known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative 2 package.
  • House Resolution 619, which calls for a study on the funding of indigent criminal defense. 

“Last year, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle came together to pass important reforms that would allow individuals to challenge unjust convictions more easily,” McClinton said. “Now we are building on that progress to make the criminal justice system fairer at all levels of the process.”

McClinton introduced H.B. 440 with Rep. Tedd C. Nesbit, R-Mercer/Butler. The bill would provide an opportunity to expunge an individual’s record if they have been unconditionally pardoned or fully acquitted of all charges. The House passed the bill unanimously on Wednesday and it now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“I hope the Senate will see fit to move this important legislation to the governor’s desk so that we can remove unnecessary hurdles to get people back on their feet and into the workforce after a pardon or full acquittal,” McClinton.

On Tuesday, the House also unanimously passed McClinton’s H.R. 619, which would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study collecting data about funding and caseloads for criminal defense in Pennsylvania.

“Our current system of providing constitutionally required legal defense to people who can’t otherwise afford representation is broken in Pennsylvania,” McClinton said. “That’s why it’s so important to have experts complete a study and provide the General Assembly with the information we need to address this issue legislatively in the near future.”

McClinton also worked closely with House and Senate colleagues on the passage of S.B.s 500 and 501, which form the Justice Reinvestment Initiative 2 package. She is the co-author of the House version of S.B. 500 and was able to include an important amendment into that legislation before it was signed into law.

“Let’s be clear – JRI 2 is one of the most important bipartisan packages of legislation we’ve passed in some time,” McClinton said. “This legislation will reduce costs within the Department of Corrections and then use those savings to reduce recidivism, increase public safety and help get people back on their feet. I was honored to stand beside the governor and speak publicly at the bills’ signing on Thursday.”

McClinton said she was proud that she was able to work with the sponsors of S.B. 500 to get an important amendment into the bill. The legislation creates the County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee to study how probation and parole affects Pennsylvania counties. McClinton’s amendment ensures that at least one chief county public defender will serve on this important committee.

“From my time as an assistant public defender in Philadelphia, I know that the voice and experience that public defenders bring to the table is critical. I’m grateful to the House for adopting my amendment into S.B. 500 and making it a better bill,” McClinton said.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed S.B.s 500 and 501 into law on Thursday.