September 26, 2023 Press Releases

(Harrisburg, Pa.) — More than 125 organizations submitted a joint letter of support to lawmakers calling for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 838, comprehensive and bipartisan probation reform legislation. 

Senate Bill 838 is awaiting a final vote in the Pennsylvania House. It already passed the Senate 45-4 and was unanimously passed by the House Judiciary Committee in June.

“Every day that passes without this bill, Pennsylvania’s probation system fails more people, more families, more communities,” said REFORM Alliance Chief Advocacy and Operations Officer Jessica Jackson. “After more than five years of debating probation reforms in Harrisburg, the 125+ organizations that signed on in support of this bill know we can’t afford to wait any longer. This bill will change lives for the better and we have the opportunity to change them now.”

The 125+ groups are members of the Pennsylvania Safety Coalition and include formerly incarcerated advocates, public safety leaders, faith groups, employers, local elected officials, direct service organizations, and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum. They include:

  • REFORM Alliance
  • Above All Odds
  • Accountable Prison Ministries
  • Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania
  • Ardella’s House
  • Cambria Drug County Coalition
  • Commonwealth Foundation
  • Faith & Freedom Coalition
  • Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
  • I Am More Program at the Community College of Philadelphia
  • Lancaster Chamber
  • Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania, Inc.
  • NoMo Foundation
  • Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association
  • Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association
  • Pennsylvania Chamber
  • Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley
  • Reuniting Family Bail Fund
  • Unity in the Community
  • Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh
  • West End P.O.W.E.R.
  • And more


Member of the Pennsylvania Coalition offered the following quotes:

Tonie Willis – Ardella’s House, Inc., Philadelphia (Read Tonie’s op-ed)

This isn’t an abstract policy debate. For the tens of thousands of people on probation, and the hundreds of thousands who have been on probation – it’s real life. Senate Bill 838 offers meaningful reforms that go far and above existing law to improve our probation system and benefit the people in it. The legislature has finally reached a proposal that solves so many problems that people on probation face. It’s time to pass this bill and change lives. 


Lance Harrell, Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania, Inc., Pittsburgh

Thousands of Pennsylvanians on probation work hard every day to get themselves back on the right path. We should not just applaud their efforts, but tangibly reward them with accelerated pathways to early termination. We value personal success and achievement – let’s act on those values and support SB 838’s educational and vocational incentives.


Pam Sedia, Pennsylvania Safety Coalition member (Learn more about Pam’s story)

Transformative legislation like this is a matter of life or death. I am a mother who lost my son to our inhumane and apathetic probation system. He was trapped in a cycle of reincarceration due to technical violations and was never provided with the mental health resources he needed. SB 838 can save other families from having to go through this pain. Lawmakers need to pass this bill immediately.


Alex Halper, Pennsylvania Chamber
The Pennsylvania Chamber supports passage of Senate Bill 838. Pennsylvania remains in the midst of a workforce crisis as many employers struggle to find workers for open positions.  Senate Bill 838 presents an opportunity to address many barriers that workers on probation face and help unlock the untapped potential in our existing workforce. We urge lawmakers to prioritize the passage of this bill as part of the PA Chamber’s workforce agenda focused on encouraging more Pennsylvanians into employment.


Luis Suave Gonzalez, I Am More Program – Community College of Philadelphia 

Education has been proven to reduce recidivism and allows people to achieve financial stability. The incentives in SB 838 will reward those who are dedicated to bettering themselves. My life experience and my work has shown me the importance of a second chance. Our lawmakers should pass this legislation and grant second chances to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who deserve them.


Michelle Campbell, Defy Ventures – Philadelphia

Having worked with many formerly-incarcerated individuals, I have seen the entrepreneurial and ambitious spirit that this community brings to the table. But too often, conditions of probation are a barrier to their success. This results in the Commonwealth missing out on their valuable contributions to our economy and our communities. SB 838 will allow people to embrace their full potential and achieve economic independence. I urge our lawmakers to vote yes on this bill.


Da’laine Simpson, Bro2Go – Harrisburg    

People deserve a chance to better themselves – whether it’s a first chance to build a career and achieve financial stability, a second chance to take accountability and re-enter their community, or simply a chance to rehabilitate and avoid going back to prison. SB 838 will offer these opportunities which are currently unavailable to the thousands of Pennsylvanians on probation. I urge our lawmakers to swiftly pass this transformative legislation.


Kurt Danysh, Tomorrow’s Neighbors – Carlisle

Reducing crime and decreasing recidivism should be top of mind for anyone who wants to meaningfully improve public safety. And there’s no better way to do that than by empowering returning citizens with the resources they need to become responsible community members. That’s why SB 838 is a public safety bill – it will help people find success and stability while on probation. Our elected officials should vote yes on this legislation.


Ebony McNeil, The Forge – Reading

There are thousands of fathers, husbands, and working men who are trapped in the counterproductive web of Pennsylvania’s probation system. In order to harness the capability for transformation that they have within themselves, their probation conditions need to change. Let’s allow them to prioritize education, employment, fatherhood, and being a good community member. Let’s pass SB 838.


Seleda Simmons, The Real Deal 610 – Reading

When we allow people to fall through the trapdoors of our outdated probation system, we are increasing violence, crime, and instability in our own backyards. Pennsylvanian communities are being harmed by these neverending cycles of recidivism. But SB 838 offers a better way forward, where people are less likely to be incarcerated for non-criminal technical violations and probation conditions are tailored to people’s unique needs. Let’s not waste any more time in passing SB 838.


Salima Suswell, Emgage – Philadelphia

Our criminal justice system disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, and Muslim communities within Pennsylvania. But we have a tremendous opportunity to change that during this legislative session. SB 838 offers a huge step towards transforming these oppressive institutions into safer, smarter systems that promote rehabilitation and well-being. Our lawmakers should hear their constituents’ calls for action and pass this bill immediately.


Sappho Fulton, Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation – Philadelphia

I’ve been off paper for over 18 years after spending half a decade in and out of prison. Despite my several degrees and qualifications, I still can’t get a high-paying job due to my criminal record. I am 59 years old. There are many other women just like me who have been re-criminalized due to their probation conditions. We need SB 838 to pass in order to better our lives.

Carlos T. Carter-President & CEO Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh

When we send people to prison for technical violations that disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, we are perpetuating poverty and oppressive systems, and recidivism.  This toxic cycle harms all Pennsylvania residents and waste vital taxpayer resources that could be better deployed to drive our state economy. SB 838 will limit incarceration for the non-criminal technical violation, improving public safety and stability for all Pennsylvanians


REFORM Alliance aims to transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing.

Pennsylvania Safety Coalition is a grassroots organization that includes systems actors, advocacy organizations, representatives from the private sector, concerned citizens, and more. We care about building stronger, better, and safer communities for generations of Pennsylvanians to come.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brittany Crampsie, 717 712 3480