The citizens of this commonwealth have a right to know that the state parole system does work, and that protecting public safety is the parole board's highest priority (“Pa. parole practices endanger city,” July 1).
Working with offenders is complex. Long established criminal thinking behaviors are not changed overnight. For several years, the Board has been studying what works to change offender behavior because only through behavior changes will we reduce recidivism and victimization. We have implemented many proven reentry strategies without compromising public safety that states across the country are using guided by research from national organizations. We use actuarial instruments that have been validated on Pennsylvania's population. We have established secure centers for technical parole violators that address immediate problem behavior of a parolee.
Further, our district offices routinely work with other law enforcement agencies. These partnerships are invaluable to protecting the safety of the public. Most recently, the board began a joint project with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to target high risk offenders who have a history of violence, weapons possession and drug dealing. These offenders are notified that they will be closely monitored and if they choose to commit another crime, the investigation and prosecution will be assertive and swift. They are also introduced to community services that can help them change their life; if that is the path they choose.
In 2012, the board issued almost 5,000 warrants for technical parole violations. Not all technical parole violations require a warrant and subsequent arrest. In fact, the law provides for the use of a graduated sanctioning process, so that technical parole violators "shall be supervised in accordance with evidence-based practices" that may include consideration of community-based sanctioning alternatives to incarceration, as well as commitment. There are many sanctioning options at an agent's disposal. The decision to revoke parole is made case by case and is based on whether or not the parolee can be safely and effectively managed in the community. When warranted the board will return an offender to a secure center, county jail or state prison as provided by law.