Tripp Laino, 202-999-4273
After State Supreme Court Ruling, Coalition Calls for Passage of Probation Reform in Pennsylvania
Harrisburg — On Thursday, November 21, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered the release of Maurice Hudson, a Philadelphia man who has been incarcerated on several occasions due to his inability to pay fines related to a 2009 robbery conviction. His attorney, Cheryl Brooks of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in October, “[H]e was essentially jailed for his poverty.”
In response to the ruling, a coalition of organizations released a statement pressing the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass legislation to reform probation practices. The following statement from the coalition can be attributed to FAMM, Americans for Prosperity Pennsylvania, REFORM Alliance, Just Leadership USA, and the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“We are overjoyed that this wrong was righted, and Maurice Hudson is now home with his family where he belongs. Despite not having committed a crime for a decade, Mr. Hudson was locked up for his inability to pay $1,900 in court fees and costs stemming from his 2009 conviction. But after being incarcerated solely for his inability to pay, the Supreme Court ordered his release.
“Mr. Hudson, who earns $600 per month as a janitor while he takes care of his children, including two special-needs daughters, complied with his other conditions of probation, but was nonetheless sentenced to 1.5 – 3 years in state prison for his failure to pay his court fines and fees.
“But Mr. Hudson’s experience with probation in Pennsylvania is not unique. There are thousands upon thousands of Pennsylvanians and their families stuck in a system that does not support success but perpetuates the revolving door of justice involvement. Pennsylvania spent more taxpayer resources incarcerating Mr. Hudson for a technical probation violation than the total of the court costs he simply could not afford to pay.
“Probation reform is not about politics, but public safety, smart use of taxpayer resources, and the simple understanding that a mistake does not define our value as people. The proposed reforms in Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 1555 have broad support from stakeholders and legislators, and we are hopeful that the Pennsylvania General Assembly will act to advance probation reform through the legislative process. Our communities cannot wait any longer.”
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.