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Courts & Justice

Pennsylvania Senate moves to overhaul probation system

Meek Mill
Matt Rourke
/
AP
Recording artist Meek Mill speaks at a gathering to push for drastic changes to Pennsylvania's probation system, in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to overhaul how probation is handled, in an effort to clamp down on people being stuck on an endless probation cycle or being sent back to jail for minor violations.

The vote, 46-4, sends the bill to the House of Representatives, where a previous Senate bill died without a vote last year.

The bill limits the length of probation sentences and the circumstances under which a non-violent offender on probation can be sent to jail, part of a nationwide reconsideration of probation and parole measures.

Pennsylvania is among the states with the highest rates of people under community supervision, according to federal statistics.

The case of rapper Meek Mill helped shine a light on the issue after he spent most of his adult life on probation — including stints in jail for technical violations — before a court overturned his conviction in a drug and gun case in Philadelphia.

Critics say state law doesn’t limit the length of probation sentences and that non-violent offenders are often incarcerated for technical violations that aren’t crimes, disrupting their families and employment. It also disproportionately affects racial minorities, they say.