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Report details Pennsylvania’s strict probation rules after rapper Meek Mill’s release

April 26, 2018 GMT

More people are on parole in Pennsylvania than in any other state, and parole violations contribute to the state having the third-highest incarceration rate in the Northeast, according to a new Columbia University report.

The Wednesday report came out the day after rapper Meek Mill was released from prison based on an order from the state Supreme Court. A judge had sentenced the artist to two to four years in prison for parole violations related to decade-old gun and drug charges, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

His imprisonment “focused attention on probation and parole practices nationally and in Pennsylvania,” according to the report, which added the state “serves as a good example of how high rates of probation and parole can go hand-in-hand with, and contribute to, high incarceration rates.”

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The state has the highest number and the highest rate of people on parole, with about 1,100 adults per 100,000 under supervision, according to the report.

A third of Pennsylvania’s prison beds in 2017 were occupied by people who have violated parole or probation, costing the state $420 million per year, according to the report.

With probation added in, about 296,000 people in the state are under supervision, according to 2015 figures — nearly the population of Pittsburgh. And unlike other states, the supervision rate is growing.

Parole sentences are longer here than in other states, partly because state law requires inmates released on parole to remain under supervision for up to their maximum prison sentences, according to the report. For example, if someone receives a 10- to 20-year prison sentence and is released after 10 years, the parole sentence has to last 10 years.

The state’s probation rules are also more stringent than in many other states, including a law that allows judges to order consecutive probation sentences, according to the report.

The report suggests shortening parole and probation terms to one to three years, allowing people under supervision to earn shorter terms, minimizing oversight of people at low risk of violating terms of their supervision and other changes.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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