Former Sen. Jane Orie to be paroled early next year

| Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, 10:23 p.m.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie tutored inmates and updated a guide to help them readjust to society when they're released.

Orie, 52, of McCandless didn't have to help others during her 17 months in prison, and legal experts said she likely was going to be paroled after serving her minimum sentence, regardless of how she spent her time.

“The number one thing the board probably looked at was whether she was going to go out there and do it again,” Glenn D. Walters, a criminal justice professor at Kutztown University in Berks County, said on Monday. “It's not unusual that she was going to be paroled at her earliest release date as long as she was staying out of trouble and not getting any bad disciplinary reports.”

Orie, the former Senate majority whip convicted of using her legislative staff to perform campaign work and later trying to cover up her scheme, was sentenced in June 2012 to serve 2½ to 10 years in prison. The state parole board last week granted her parole, effective as early as Feb. 9.

Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, couldn't be reached. The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Orie, declined comment.

During her stay at the women's state prison in Cambridge Springs in Crawford County, Orie assisted Department of Corrections staff by tutoring fellow inmates getting their GED and updated and compiled a guide to help them successfully integrate back into society.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan Bensinger said the guide includes information about job hunting, help identifying support groups and information about government and nonprofit agencies.

“She could have stayed in her cell and simply done her time. Instead, she really gave back to the inmates who were around her,” Bensinger said.

Orie's sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, declined to comment on Monday but last week released a statement saying in part, “Jane is a strong woman of faith. She has always maintained that it is an honor and privilege to serve those in need.”

Parole boards typically look at a number of criteria when determining whether to release inmates, including the severity of their crime, the chances of them committing the crime again and whether they pose a public safety risk, said University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris.

“In addition, they'll want to know how the person behaved inside. If they're doing things like Jane did, where she seemed to use the time in a positive way, that does help,” Harris said.

The board cited a positive recommendation from the Department of Corrections, Orie's development of a parole release plan, “positive institutional behavior” and demonstration of a “motivation for success.”

Orie became eligible for release based on a program that can reduce sentences for inmates with no history of violent behavior. She'll be on parole through 2022. She could go back to prison to serve the remainder of her sentence if she violates parole.

A jury in May convicted Melvin, 57, of Marshall of using her Superior Court staff and resources to campaign for a seat on the state's highest court in 2003 and 2009. A judge this month suspended her sentence of house arrest after the Superior Court ruled that she did not have to write letters of apology to every judge in Pennsylvania on black-and-white photos of herself posing in handcuffs.

A jury convicted Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless of helping her sisters commit their crimes. Her attorney withdrew a request to have her sentence stayed.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or

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