State Intermediate Punishment is a form of sentencing for non-violent offenders available as an alternative to straight prison time. SIP is primarily a program for offenders convicted of drug- and alcohol-related offenses. The state views SIP inmates having committed crimes motivated their consumption or addiction to drugs and alcohol. The program excludes violent offenders and sex offenders, including any offenders whose crimes involved weapons.
How Does an Offender Establishing Eligibility for SIP?
Both the prosecutor and the sentencing judge must agree and recommend an offender for SIP. Once recommended, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) will conduct an assessment, which thoroughly looks at drug/alcohol abuse or addiction and determine if the offender is suitable for the program.
Once the DOC completes the assessment and makes a recommendation for placement in SIP, and if the Commonwealth’s attorney and the defendant agree, the sentencing judge can sentence the offender to 24 months of State Intermediate Punishment provided the court finds:
- The eligible offender is likely to benefit from State Intermediate Punishment.
- The eligible offender’s participation in State Intermediate Punishment enhance public safety.
- Sentencing the eligible offender to state intermediate punishment will not depreciate the seriousness of the offense.
How Does a SIP Sentence Work?
While inmates serving their sentences in the program do serve some time in prison, they also receive extensive counseling and therapy aimed at reducing their chance of reoffending, in legal terms called recidivism. SIP inmates serve:
- A flat sentence of 24 months.
- At least seven months served in prison, four of which are in a therapeutic community.
- A minimum of two months in a community-based therapeutic community.
- A minimum of six months in outpatient treatment.
The balance of the 24-month sentence involves supervised community reintegration with their progress monitored by DOC staff. During this time the inmates receive additional treatment based on their individual needs and how they are progressing through the program. The court may also sentence the defendant to a consecutive period of probation as long as the total sentence does not exceed the maximum sentence allowed.
Is It Possible to Fail SIP?
Each SIP participant has an individualized treatment plan based on his or her assessed needs. The program tracks their progress through the attainment of individualized goals the program establishes for each inmate. Inmates can fail the program because of misbehavior or because they don’t meet their progress goals. The sentencing court must revoke a SIP sentence if the inmate fails to complete treatment. At that point the inmate is subject to resentencing to straight prison time using standard sentencing guidelines. Also, the Commonwealth’s attorney must file a notice with the court prior to re-sentencing that Commonwealth intends to require a mandatory minimum sentence. The result of failing out of the SIP program could be years of additional prison time.
Pennsylvania enacted legislation in 2008 expanded SIP to allow prison officials to request sentence conversion to state intermediate punishment for incoming inmates who may be eligible but have sentences under traditional sentencing guidelines.
If you need legal representation during this time, don’t hesitate to call an experienced criminal defense attorney from Ciccarelli Law Offices.
Is SIP a Successful Program?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Correction 2017 SIP Program Performance Report, program participants have better outcomes then inmates sentenced under standard guidelines since it began in May 2005.
- DOC found 84% of offenders referred by the courts for SIP evaluation found eligible for the program from May 2005 through September 2016.
- The courts sentenced 5,598 offenders to the SIP program from May 2005 through September 2016.
- 1,014 offenders were in the SIP program at the end of fiscal year 2016.
- 3,142 offenders have graduated from the SIP program May 2005 through September 2016.
- DOC removed 1,442 SIP participants from the program from May 2005 through September 2016. This represents failure rate of 26%, compared to a failure rate of 30% for non-SIP therapeutic community.
- Overall recidivism rates are lower for SIP participants than for a comparable group of non-SIP offenders at all follow up periods
- 6-months (9.2% vs. 16.6%)
- 1-year (22.6% vs. 32.9%)
- 3-year (42.9% vs. 55.7%)
- 5-year (54.4% vs. 64.2%)
- SIP participants have a lower re-arrest rate than the comparison group at 1 year (13.4% vs. 16.5%).
- The Commonwealth saves approximately $33,736 per SIP participant. The 3,142 current SIP graduates have thus saved the Commonwealth approximately $106 million.