New study inspired by Meek Mill ranks Pa.'s probation system among the worst

Cherri Gregg
April 25, 2018 - 7:49 am
Meek Mill

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new study released today by Columbia University’s Justice Lab ranks Pennsylvania as one of the worst in the country when it comes to time for probation and parole. The study was born out of the Meek Mill case.

"Pennsylvania supervises people at nearly twice the national average while on parole," said Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Justice Lab and co-author of the study "Pennsylvania's Community Corrections Story.” The 13-page document takes a look at probation and parole data in Pennsylvania, comparing the practices in the commonwealth with those in the region and across the county.

According to the study, nationally 1 in 53 adults are supervised by the state due to probation and parole. In Pennsylvania, that number is 1 in 36. In Philadelphia, the number is even higher, contributing heavily to mass incarceration.

“Half of the people in Philadelphia’s jail are in there on probation or parole detainers,” said Schiraldi, who once served as the commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation.

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He says state supervision becomes less effective over time, and it’s expensive. He claims it costs the commonwealth of Pennsylvania more than $400 million a year.

“The vast majority of people shouldn’t be on probation more than two or three years,” said Schiraldi, noting that defendants should get an opportunity to earn reduced time.

He says in many states there are statutory limits to the amount of time an individuals can remain on probation. Meek Mill was sentenced when he was 19 years old. He’s now 30 and has spent more than a decade under some form of state supervision. Scholars say the extended state supervision would have been unlikely in other states.

"He couldn't have been on probabtion more than five years in New York City,” he said.

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In Pennsylvania, judges have the discretion to keep a defendant under state supervision for as long as the maximum sentence for their crimes.