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The Pennsylvania State Prison System

Pennsylvania has prisons located in various counties across the state. These correctional facilities are managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and they cater to different classes of convicts which include defective delinquents, lesser security risk prisoners, adult female offenders, juvenile offenders, adult male offenders, capital case inmates, and terminally ill inmates. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections permits and even encourages visitation either by coming to the prison or by phone call. It is also possible for victims of crime or residents in general, to get updates on an inmate's status in any of the correctional institutions via Pennsylvania Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (PA SAVIN). Additionally, crime victims can register at the Office of Victim Advocate (OVA) to understand their rights with respect to Pennsylvania law.

What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a county-run correctional facility is called jail, while prisons are operated by the state. A person charged with a crime and is awaiting trial will be put behind bars at the jail first. Furthermore, sentenced defendants are initially kept in jail before they are transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Again, a county jail only houses inmates with less severe offense or with a short jail term. Pennsylvania prisons, on the other hand, host convicts with longer sentences, and its facilities can serve more inmates than that of a county jail. Provision for programs to aid the wellness or improve the lifestyle of a convict is only present at the state prisons.

How Many Prisons are in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has 24 correctional facilities that are currently running. Each of these facilities has a special function and are classed into;

Maximum Security

There are maximum-security prisons for young adult offenders, female adults, and male adults. The maximum-security prison for young adult inmates houses offenders between ages 16 to 25. The male and female adult maximum prison is for those with capital punishment or with challenges that call for special care like mental illnesses.

Close Security

Closed security prisons have medical facilities for the care and treatment of convicts. Hence, they detain house inmates with medical conditions.

Medium Security

Medium security prisons are for detainees with cases of defective delinquents and substance abuse. Some of these medium-security prisons host programs to help inmates suffering from addiction.

Minimum Security

Some minimum security prisons house aged inmates and mentally ill convicts. While some other host prisoners with short jail terms.

How do I search for an Inmate in Pennsylvania State Prison?

To search for information about an inmate that is presently incarcerated in the state prison in Pennsylvania, interested persons may make use of the Inmate/Parolee Locator. The Inmate/Parolee Locator is managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and it contains details of prisoners and parolees as well as the facility they are detained in. To utilize this option, details of the prisoners such as name, inmate number, gender, race, the county where the offense was committed, and date of birth are required. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections refreshes this repository every day to ensure that it is as precise as possible. In addition, to know about any change in the status of a convict, an online tool has been provided called the Pennsylvania Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (PA SAVIN). However, the use of these online channels is only for detainees that have been incarcerated within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Are Incarceration Records Public in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania detainee records contain the official data of people confined and imprisoned in correctional facilities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and this information is available to the public In pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law, records maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections or any other office within its jurisdiction are public records, and can be obtained by the public. However, restricted incarcerated records may not be obtained by residents because they are either sealed or expunged. To have access to sealed records, send a request to the court where the case was heard stating the reason the record should be accessible.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Look Up Jail Records in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, it's simple and most importantly, free to obtain a criminal history record online through the Inmate/Parolee Locator. The Inmate/Parolee Locator is an online repository for persons incarcerated in Pennsylvania currently. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections makes sure the information online is updated regularly to guarantee accuracy. For records that cannot be found on the online database, a request to access jail information can be sent to the Corrections Superintendent's Assistant (CSA) of the facility where the individual was or is imprisoned. Notwithstanding, jail records are regarded as open records and can be accessed by the public in accordance with the Right-to-Know Law, except it contains sensitive information and has been sealed. Sealed records can be obtained only with a court order.

Can Jail Records be Expunged in Pennsylvania?

Jail records can be destroyed in accordance with the law in Pennsylvania, which permits crime records to be erased only if the individual has been dead for a long time, or if the individual is 70 years or above and has not been indicted for another offense after 10 years of completing their sentence. Majorly, the offenses that are currently qualified to be erased/expunged are substance-related, as well as 1st and 2nd-degree minor offenses. For example, possession of drugs, DUI/DWI and controlled substances, larceny, imprudent endangerment, fraud, and identity theft.

The expungement process in Pennsylvania involves printing and completing form SP 4-170 as well as paying a fee of $20. Once this is done, applicants should send the form via mail to the Pennsylvania State Police, along with proof of payment, a photocopy of a government-issued ID, and a letter of presentation or legal affidavit. When the request has been received by the central repository, which is the State Police, full details of the arrest records will be sent to the requestor. The requestor can then take the arrest documents to the Clerk of Courts in the county where the arrest took place for further directive on how to petition the court for expungement. The petition must be submitted, alongside a Pennsylvania State Police historical verification (arrest record) to the court, and it comes with a $167 charge. Usually, for a case to be expunged in Pennsylvania, it takes about three months to half a year.

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