For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 28

Sentencing, Interrupted

N

ot long ago, we lived in a world where the term
disruption was viewed with hope and optimism. The
hope was that new technologies and reengineering
efforts would significantly improve the efficiency and
effectiveness of organizational operations. For courts,
disruptive innovation meant that justice could be " available
to a wider audience at a lower cost while preserving
fairness, neutrality, transparency, and predictability in the
judicial process. " 1 This new court future was paperless,
made use of video conferencing for hearings, embraced
alternative dispute resolution, and allowed individuals to
pay court fees and fines online or through smart phone
apps. The recent global pandemic has brought with it a
different kind of disruption-one that has altered our
daily lives, threatened the vitality of local businesses, and
significantly altered the way that courts and justice system
partners conduct their business.
In mid-March it become clear that COVID-19 was a
serious threat to the health and safety of the citizens
of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In response,
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court directed that all
courts in Pennsylvania were to be closed to the public
for non-essential functions.2 Jury and bench trials were
postponed, and speedy trial rules were suspended.
Courthouse activities that were previously considered
28

For The Defense l Vol. 5, Issue 4

Matthew Kleiman
and Diane Shoop

routine (e.g., voir dire, jury trials, public court hearings,
meeting face to face with opposing counsel, conducting
in-person problem solving court) now represented
opportunities for the spread of the virus.
Throughout the criminal justice system, departments
and agencies were forced to swiftly respond to contain
or prevent the spread of the virus. For example, the
Department of Corrections reduced prison population
through expediting the release process of inmates
with pending home plans, furloughing eligible paroled
inmates in community correction centers to home plans,
and reviewing detainers.3 The Governor established
a reprieve of sentence of incarceration program to
transfer non-violent and vulnerable inmates from state
correctional institutions to community corrections
centers and facilities or to home confinement. This
program had a marginal impact on the size of the
correctional population.4 Containment efforts also
reduced or eliminated the practice of having state
parole agents and county probation and parole officers
in the field. Instead, both state parole agents and
county probation and parole officers relied on phone
calls, texts, emails, and web-based video communication
tools (e.g., Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) to supervise offenders.
With the closing of the courthouse doors, many county



For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 6
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 52
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