Work/Medical/Early Release Questions

  • Q. With regard to the County Prisoner Early Parole, I am confused as to how this works for state sentenced offenders serving two to five years in a county prison. Is every county prisoner eligible?

    A. There are three programs we are talking about:  Work Release eligibility, County Re-entry eligibility and RRRI.  A person serving a sentence in a county facility, under a county sentence of a maximum of less than two years, would be eligible for early parole.  A court would have to make that determination at sentencing.  A person serving a state sentence in a county jail would also be eligible for work release, but there would be no reduction in the parole or no early parole in that case because the Board of Probation and Parole is responsible for paroling that person.  So a person that has a maximum of between two and five years, serving in a county jail, may be work release eligible but that person is not eligible for early parole.  A person serving a sentence in a state correctional facility, who is eligible under the statute, is eligible and. in fact, the court must impose RRRI minimum making that person eligible for parole at an earlier date from a state facility.  (Mark Bergstrom)


  • Q. Is the prisoner system responsible for the prisoner’s medical bills while he/she is on Medical Release?

    A. The prisoner, or more likely the family, ends up responsible for the medical bills.  When the prisoner receives Medical Release, he (she) or the family may want to check different benefits: Medicaid, something through Welfare, and be able to see what may be available for him (her) at that cost. (Ann Schwartzman)


  • Q. Will Victim Service Providers be notified if there is a Medical Release?

    A.  If there is a Medical Release or a potential Medical Release being considered, the Office of the Victim Advocate will notify victims registered with the Office of the Victim Advocate. Victims who register with OVA are those whose offenders are serving time in the Department of Corrections, the state prison system.

    At the same time, for those cases in which we have a registered victim, we will also notify the relevant Victim/Witness program in the District Attorney’s Office.

    So, in the instance when the inmate is serving time in the state system, and we have a registered victim, the Office of the Victim Advocate would notify both the victim and the victim witness program.  It that offender or inmate is serving time in the county system; the Office of the Victim Advocate would have no part in that particular process and the responsibility for notification would fall to the local corrections facility.  (Carol Lavery)


  • Q. If you want notice of work/medical release, will your registration in SAVIN be sufficient?

    A. First of all, so that everyone understands what SAVIN is, it is the State Automation Victim Information Notification system, which is an automated system being implemented across Pennsylvania.  Certainly, a majority of counties have instituted SAVIN with the cooperation and coordination of the Victim Witness Programs, as well as the prison facilities in each one of the counties.

    Victims can register and members of the community can register on SAVIN and be notified about movements of the offender within most county corrections systems at the present time.  For more information or to register, go to or call 1-866-9-SAVIN or contact the victim/witness program in the county District Attorney’s Office.  Links can also be found at PCCD’s, OVA’s, and the PA District Attorneys Association (PDAA) Web sites.

    The automated system is not utilized currently by the Office of Victim Advocate.  We have another automated system which is being updated. OVA expects to be on line with SAVIN by the fall of 2009. 

    If you want notice of those particular inmates, will your registration be sufficient?  Currently work release should be included in SAVIN notifications.  Although for medical release, at this point in time, probably not; some tweaks are needed in order to add that category of notification to SAVIN.  There may be a notification but it probably would not specify that it is a medical release, although that should be changed shortly.  (Carol Lavery)

  • Q. What is the status of prisoners while they are under Medical Release (Act 84)?
    A. Medical Release or Compassionate Release is really temporary and the judge would issue a temporary order whether it is the deferment of service or just a temporary release for the service. But overall, the individual is still under the controlling authority of either the Department of Corrections or the county prison. (Ann Schwartzman)

    A. If you look at the statute, the language they use, it would be a temporary deferment of the sentence. I think that's often viewed as the sentence being temporarily halted, and the person being released out to a facility for treatment, etc. So I think an argument could be made that the sentence is suspended to some degree during that period of time, if the person is released. If the person is recommitted to the facility, then the sentence starts to run again. That doesn't mean there isn't any type of supervision while in the community, but it would be more akin to a person being on bail or pre-trial release or post-sentence release where as long they are not being incarcerated, there would be no credit running against the incarceration sentence. I'm sure that will be litigated, but I think at least based on the language listed, it's a temporary deferment of the service of the sentence. (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Is there any way to communicate with other counties who have already had new conditions put in place for work release guidelines, early release programs, etc.? Are there other Prison Boards willing to share their work release guidelines?

    A. One of the areas that PCCD has encouraged and is progressing quite well is the development and implementation of County Criminal Justice Advisory Boards (CJABs). Currently, 57 counties have functioning CJABs.  One of PCCD’s responsibilities is   providing information to the field and also facilitating the sharing of information between counties. PCCD recently created a collaborative Web site, which provides counties with an opportunity to share information about their programs and to ask questions regarding policies or programs that have been developed and implemented in other counties.  This resource is an excellent opportunity for counties to share information about a wide range of criminal justice issues.  So, certainly there are a number of very effective initiatives, which already exist at the county level and there will be new initiatives developed as a result of this legislation and PCCD’s collaborative Web site provides an opportunity to share this information.  In addition to PCCD’s collaborative Web site, it is recommended that interested parties also review the Web site that was specifically created for the Corrections Package.  (Jim Strader)

  • Q. Does the victim have opportunity to provide input concerning work release?

    A. Yes, victims have an opportunity to provide input concerning work release which could be provided at two different points in time.  Victims have had for a number of years in Pennsylvania , in fact in all states and at the federal level, the opportunity to provide impact statements at time of sentencing. The first input for work release would be as a part of that impact statement if the victim wishes.

    The fact that an offender is made eligible for work release at sentencing is to be included in the information provided to the victim. 

    The second opportunity for input occurs when the prison considers the offender for work release.  This assumes that the offender has been given the opportunity for work release by the judge at sentencing of which the victim has been made aware.  Once notified of this fact, the victim would then need to register in some way with the locally designated agency to be given an opportunity to provide input when the prison considers the inmate for work release.  (Carol Lavery)


  • Q. In the beginning (of the webinar), compassionate release was mentioned. What is compassionate release?

    A. Compassionate Release is really medical release or at least in the instance of looking at the Prison Reform Package.  (Ann Schwartzman)  

    A. I would at least like to address the term.  Compassionate Release is a term that is very controversial in the victims’ service world and with victims.  The terminology, Medical release, in fact, is the actual description of the type of release that is occurring.  For that reason that particular term is often not utilized in describing the process.  (Carol Lavery)  

    A. Just a little historical comment:  The compassionate release comes from the old Act, that’s where that terminology comes from. So it’s from the early 1900s.  (Mary McDaniel)


  • Q. If released to a long-term care facility (nursing home) are the residents’ families notified in addition to the residents/staff of the nursing home?

    A. From my understanding, families would only be notified in those instances when the resident was incapacitated, unable to make their own decisions, so determined to be incompetent. Also, only those residents who come into contact, or would come into contact with the former inmate, are in fact notified. Staff or contractors who come into contact are also notified. To summarize then, it would be the residents who would come into contact, and families of the residents who are considered incapacitated, and those contractors or staff who might come into contact with the former inmate.  (Carol Lavery)

    A. The Act does require notification. I am assuming that the resident’s family would know if the resident is contacted or notified or the personnel at the nursing home, if the resident is incompetent, would definitely notify anybody who is going to come in contact with this person.  (Mary McDaniel)

  • Q. With regard to County Prisoner Work Release is this only for offenders sentenced following Act 81, or are previous offenders eligible? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. Work Release is available for offenders sentenced to confinement in a county facility prior to the enactment of Act 81. 42 Pa.C.S. 9813 specifically provides that the court may enter an order to make an offender eligible for work release "at the time of sentence or at any time thereafter upon application made in accordance with this section."  (Mark Bergstrom)

  • Q. Are all defendants eligible for work release once they are sentenced or does the Judge make the determination at the time of sentencing? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. No. In order to participate in work release, the offender must be made eligible by the court and must be authorized by the county jail official.  (Mark Bergstrom)