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New Pennsylvania DOC Program Aims to Reduce Re-Arrests

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections hopes to expand a pilot program it launched in Pittsburgh and Scranton on a statewide level after early evaluations indicate it could reduce the chances people will be re-arrested for new crimes after their release from halfway houses.

The department’s initial study focused on approximately 200 people who spent time in halfway houses in Scranton and Pittsburgh and who were engaged in a new model for discipline known as HOPE. The program encouraged corrections workers to hand down “swift and certain” punishments every time someone broke a rule. A common example of a punishment was a couple days spent in jail. In other DOC halfway houses and programs, corrections workers would wait weeks or months to address violations, which meant they could quickly pile up.

Although people who went through the HOPE program were booked in jail more frequently (typically for violations such as failed drug tests), they usually spent less than a week in jail and were 13 percent less likely to be rearrested after their release. This was compared to people with similar criminal backgrounds at facilities using older models of discipline. The DOC believes this difference is “statistically significant,” and officials hope it could lead to a reduction in crime across the state.

How the program works

Pennsylvania decided it would test the HOPE model on people who were convicted for nonviolent crimes motivated by drugs. A common example is an individual who stole something as a means of feeding a drug habit.

The department monitored people who were already participating in State Intermediate Punishment (SIP), a two-year program mandated by a judge and overseen by the Department of Corrections. The first portion of SIP is spent in prison, while the second is in a halfway house.

With the opioid epidemic becoming of greater concern statewide, law enforcement officials hope this program will allow for better rehabilitation and more positive outcomes.

For more information on the HOPE program and how it could affect law enforcement in drug crime cases, work with dedicated Reading criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.



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