RRRI Questions

  • Q. If an offender is eligible for RRRI, and is not on RRRI, can the DOC change the offender’s sentence?

    A. That's a good question. If the offender is eligible for RRRI, which means they are going to get a state sentence, then the court will automatically compute that sentence. However, DOC does not have the power to re-sentence an individual, only the court can re-sentence. I believe the person writing the question is probably confused because of the State Intermediate Punishment changes under the new Act. DOC can request that a person be reevaluated for State Intermediate Punishment, if they fit the criteria. They can then go back to the court and ask the court to re-sentence the person to State Intermediate Punishment, but they do not have that power under RRRI. (Mary McDaniel)

    A. If I can add to that, there have been cases, at least in presentations we’ve given, where there’s been the discussion "What if a court doesn’t know the person is eligible and forgets to impose RRRI sentence and the person ends up in the Department of Corrections?" Some would argue that would be an illegal sentence because the court is required by statute to impose that RRRI minimum and, if that were the case, then the court would have to modify the sentence because it’s an error and impose the RRRI minimum. But I agree with Mary, DOC does not have the authority to impose RRRI minimum, the court would have to do that. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Where can one obtain a copy of the slides? On what basis is the RRRI evaluated? What variables enter the calculation? On what basis is the sentence reduced thereby?

    A. You can go back and review all of this information on the Corrections Package Web site. It may be accessed at www.pacorrectionspackage.state.pa.us. We recommend that you continually monitor this Web site, as we will be updating information as it is available and we will also be adding all of the questions and answers from the webinar, including those questions and subsequent responses which we did not have time to address during the webinar. (Jim Strader)

    A. The basis for RRRI, how you get into the program and how you qualify for it, are all laid out in Title 44 under section 5305. That’s the definition section. So if you take a look at an eligible offender, the definition describes all the things and they are basically all the things that will keep from becoming eligible for RRRI. Remember this is a non-violent program. We’re trying to target the non-violent individuals, so most of the crimes that will keep you out involve violence. (Mary McDaniel)

    So number one is: Does not demonstrate a history of present or past violent behavior. That goes back to the question on the Victim Advocate. Giving information about someone who has a violent history, it might not be evident from the prior criminal history so they are encouraged to give that information to the district attorney. The other ones are deadly weapons. If you have any kind of a weapons offense that can keep you out. Personal injury crimes, those are listed, again, in the definition section of the Crime Victims Act. Personal injury crimes are under section 11.103. That’s an unconsolidated act. You can find it at 18 PS, section 11.103. There’s a long list there. Some of the other things that will keep you out: There’s a laundry list also listed in the act, the sexual offenses, any assaults, criminal homicides, murder. If you are awaiting charges on any of those crimes, that will also keep you out. Some of the drug king-pin offenses, those are the high weights, will keep you out under this. So it is different than State Intermediate Punishment. It’s a little more rigorous. Remember the District Attorney, with the judge’s consent and victim’s input, can also waive any and all of these things and keep you out of there.

    A. Some related questions: Mandatory minimums, if they fit any of the categories of the things that I just described, they will keep you out. Otherwise, the mandatory minimum sentence will not automatically be a disqualifier. And remember, these only apply to people who are getting more than two years in prison, which are state sentences, so RRRI does not apply to county sentences. (Mary McDaniel)

  • Q. How do they calculate the RRRI sentence?

    A. It's a flat formula written into the statute. If you are sentenced to a minimum of under three years, you get three-quarters of your sentence. You only have to serve three-quarters of the minimum. If you are over three years, then its five-sixths. So it’s a flat formula stated in the statute. In fact, there are tables that have already been calculated for any number of months that you have been sentenced. (Mary McDaniel)

  • Q. Are mandatory one-year minimum DUI sentences included in the RRRI?

    A. Unless an offense is specifically ineligible for RRRI, the understanding is that a sentence is eligible for RRRI serving in a state facility. So for the DUI conviction where the mandatory minimum would apply, based on that, the person would be eligible for RRRI. I believe the definition of a personal injury crime under the Crime Victims Act would preclude a DUI that resulted in bodily injury or maybe serious bodily injury, but aside from that, DUI mandatories would fall under RRRI. (Mark Bergstrom)

    A. Some of questions we get often are when does it start or when would prisoners be eligible. This is important because this law is not retroactive. This is for people sentenced on or after November 24, 2008. Most of the questions we get are people who are serving time already. We need to make sure, be very clear that they are not eligible. (Ann Schwartzman)

    A. One of the presentations addressed expedited parole. One of the things to keep in mind is that a RRRI eligible offender may have been sentenced prior to the effective date of these statutes. So a person might be serving a state sentence in a state facility prior to the enactment of this legislation. That person may be eligible for an expedited review of parole consideration. So the statute does allow for someone who is RRRI eligible offender to benefit from the expedited release or review of the case by the Board of Probation and Parole. So that is one thing that although it’s not retroactive, clearly a person serving that sentence has some benefit for that expedited review of parole at their actual min, not at a RRRI min. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Is there an approved list of approved research-based programs for RRRI eligible offenders?

    A. I think the Department of Corrections has published on their Web site and, maybe otherwise, made available some of the research-based programs they are using. But again, this is really under the purview of the Department of Corrections, so I sort of defer to them. They do have a lot of useful information and I believe that includes a number of these RRRI programs that they are targeting for RRRI offenders. (Mark Bergstrom)

    A. My only comment to that is that the Act requires the DOC to make that list available to the public. So, if you have a question, they have to list that and I believe Mark is right. It’s probably on their Web site, but they have to make that public and that is according to the Act. (Mary McDaniel)

  • Q. Under the new law will good time further reduce the minimum release date earlier than the RRRI minimum?

    A. Well, I guess these are two different things. As mentioned before, if someone remains in a county jail, the person can be made eligible for early parole for a reentry program at the local level. So that certainly would be release prior to the minimum sentence for the county sentence and it really is a lot of latitude at the county level for determining how early that release would be. If someone is sent to a state prison and is eligible for RRRI min, as was mentioned earlier, there is a formula that determines what that earlier, possible min is. In both of these cases, in the case of the county sentence, the judge gets to decide whether to actually exercise that earlier release and on the state side the Board of Probation and Parole decides whether to release at that RRRI min. So they sort of operate independently. There is not any good time separate from RRRI operating at the state level and RRRI does not operate at the county level. So they are two different approaches for two different populations. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Why is burglary RRRI eligible if burglary is a crime of violence as defined in 9714 of the Sentencing Code and by case law in death penalty litigation? (CW vs. Rios and CW vs. Pruitt)

    A. That's a good question. I think the burglary itself is an eligible offense, although burglary with a house person present is a crime of violence under "Three Strikes" so just that one category of burglary is considered a crime of violence. The Victims Bill of Rights under personal injury crime does not include burglary. But when Mary mentioned eligibility for RRRI, she mentioned that there were some other broad definitions of ineligibility. One was a person who had current or previous conviction for violent offenses or current or previous violent behavior. If burglary is deemed violent behavior, then certainly the person could be deemed ineligible for RRRI. So I think burglary is one of those issues where some burglaries are viewed as property offenses. Others might be viewed as violent offences. And I think there is language in the definition of ineligible offender that gives the court that kind of determination. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Are the calculations of RRRI minimum sentences applicable to county sentences or does the county reentry plan for good time/earned time only apply?

    A. Jim, I think we addressed this before. The RRRI minimum sentence only applies to state sentences served in a state facility where the Board of Probation and Parole is the paroling authority. So RRRI only applies to that. The county reentry plan can apply to a county sentence; a max of less than two years served in a county jail for which the court has paroling authority. If the court makes a person eligible for county reentry, then good time/earned time - any types of programs like that authorized in the county or provided by the county - would apply to those sentences. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Does RRRI at the state level or reentry plan at the county level affect mandatory sentences?

    A. We did answer that, but I will just point out that there has been some discussion at the county level. Some prosecutors have questioned whether RRRI does apply to mandatory sentences. Notwithstanding what Mary already mentioned, which was certainly the spirit of this, was to, aside from violent offenses, personal injury offenses, the idea was that RRRI would apply to at least the first two categories of drug trafficking offenses. There are some prosecutors that read the statute differently and find in Title 42 that there is a provision that basically says mandatory minimums must apply in these cases. They're not reading it that this supersedes that, so while the spirit was at least for these two drug trafficking categories that RRRI would apply, there are some that are arguing that, so we will have to see how any of these appeals move forward. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Concerning RRRI, can a judge initiate a waiver without the District Attorney being involved? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. A waiver of RRRI ineligibility is within the discretion of the District Attorney. While a judge may raise the issue, a judge cannot waive ineligibility. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. If an offender has a violent history, how would the DOC know if he/she is RRRI eligible? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. For those being sentenced subsequent to the enactment of the legislation, the Court determines at the time of sentencing whether the offender is eligible for RRRI, and therefore does not have a violent history, and if eligible, must impose a RRRI minimum for a total confinement sentence being served in a state facility. If the offender was sentenced prior to the enactment of the legislation, as with any case approaching parole eligibility, the DOC reviews all available offender records. As part of the rebuttable parole provision of the legislation, both the sentencing judge and the district attorney are provided an opportunity to comment prior to the PBPP making a final parole decision. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Does RRRI apply when revoking a defendant’s probation on a prior change and resentencing him or her to a state incarceration sentence? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. Yes. For an eligible offender, upon revocation of an order of probation, county intermediate punishment or state intermediate punishment, a new sentence of total confinement in a state facility includes RRRI. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Does RRRI apply to those sentenced with mandatory minimum sentences? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. If an offender is not otherwise ineligible, RRRI does apply to mandatory minimum sentences of total confinement in a state facility. See definition of "eligible offender" at 44 Pa.C.S. 5303. Specific restrictions apply to DUI (75 Pa.C.S. Ch. 38) in cases involving bodily injury, and to drug trafficking (18 Pa.C.S. 7508(a)(1)(iii), (2)(iii), (3)(iii), (4)(iii), (7)(iii) or (8)(iii)). (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Do the RRRI sentences apply to County sentences, as well as State sentences? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. No. RRRI applies only to eligible offenders receiving sentences of total confinement in a state facility. Offenders receiving sentences of total confinement in a county facility may be eligible for a county re-entry plan and/or county work release. (Mark Bergstrom)