McClinton motion delays vote on sentence risk assessment tool

HARRISBURG, June 14 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, today lauded the vote by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to postpone a move on the controversial sentence risk assessment tool.

McClinton, who serves on the commission, made the motion to delay the vote after receiving several pieces of testimony against implementing the tool. The commission voted unanimously to postpone any action.

The General Assembly mandated the commission to adopt a sentence risk assessment instrument to serve as an aid in the sentencing process in an effort to reduce the prison population. It would provide judges with facts and information to ensure a defendant receives the proper punishment while indicating if they need help, such as a drug treatment program.

McClinton said she believes the risk assessment tool is unfair because it would adversely impact people of color.

“During three public hearings, including one in Philadelphia where 33 people testified, we heard from citizens, the Philadelphia Bar Association and advocate groups opposing the sentence risk assessment tool because of its racial implications,” McClinton said. “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.

“I am pleased the commission decided to take a step back, digest and evaluate the comments and wait another time to move on this action.”

In addition to reviewing the testimony from the public hearings, McClinton said her motion directs the commission to publish the findings of the Urban Institute’s external review of the proposed sentence risk assessment instrument upon receipt, solicit proposals from the public and stakeholders for a sentence risk assessment tool as mandated, and schedule a minimum of three public hearings in December 2018 to receive proposals and to review comments on any revisions to the commission’s proposal.