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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Group Recommends Ways to Reduce Pa. Jail/Prison Populations

Dec. 15, 2016 -- Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment (JRI) Initiative working group passed a new set of criminal justice policy recommendations that could drive down prison and jail populations and save $108 million over the next two years.

Half of those savings would be repurposed as new spending for expanded probation services that – if maintained – should help to reduce the rate of repeat offenders returning to jail.

“Collectively, these efforts can reduce recidivism and make Pennsylvania a safer state,” said consultant Carl Reynolds, senior legal and policy advisor with the Council of State Governments. Among members of the JRI Working Group is Potter County native Leo Dunn, chairman of the Pa. Board of Probation and Parole.

JRI, headed by incoming Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Pa. Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel (shown), was begun in Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration as a response to concerns over growing prisoner populations at the state and county levels.

Spending on the state’s prison system has surged from $1.6 billion in 2006 to $2.5 billion 10 years later, prompting calls to get “smarter” in the fight against crime. Costs have also exploded at the county level.

JRI Round One, which resulted in legislation in 2012, has produced smaller-than-expected cost savings, but is credited with helping to start a decline in prisoner populations after years of growth. Average daily inmate count in the state prison system was 49,913 in the 2015-16 state budget year, down from 51,757 four years earlier. Similar reductions have been seen in county jails. Proponents say the suggested changes in JRI Round Two would take the inmate census down even more.

Today’s report – developed after a year of study by state and county officials – called for a number of changes at the state and county levels. Some will require legislative action to implement. The recommendations include:

• Continuing study of ways to reduce pre-trial imprisonment of criminal defendants, and further reforms in the handling of parole violators.
• Standardizing county probation department procedures and dedicating more state funding to county probation departments to enable the hiring of more officers.
• Small downward adjustments in state sentencing guidelines – the starting point for most criminal sentences – for crimes serious enough to warrant minimum prison terms of 40 months or less.
• Move to “presumptive parole” for inmates with minimum terms of two years or less, once they’ve hit their minimum date. The task force estimates this would cut total incarceration times by about four months on average for inmates admitted each year with minimum terms of two years or less. About 10% of these inmates will be ineligible for presumptive parole because of disciplinary infractions.
• Streamlining inmates’ pathways into intermediate punishment programs by eliminating a post-sentence review of program eligibility by sentencing judges. The judge would have already initially determined the convict’s eligibility for intermediate punishment at the time of sentencing.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, letting them out on the street usually ends up with
them committing more serious crimes including murder.............

Less than 10% of people commit 90% of the crimes............

Anonymous said...

Possibly the state should either stop pushing alcohol or tax it enough to cover ALL of the ancillary costs due to its use and abuse. For every $1 tax dollar received from alcohol is offset by $8 in costs to our society. Digging further into these crimes, the use of alcohol would be prevalent in 75% of these crimes requiring substantial incarceration. The more alcohol the state sells, the more the prisons fill up!

Anonymous said...

It's about time! Most of the people in the jail are not a risk are low-level and don't have to be there running up bills for the taxpayers. The dangerous criminals usually end up being sentenced to the state pen. There are other ways to deal with the local minor offenders like ankle bracelets and patches that detect drugs or alcohol. If you just throw them in the jail while we wait months and months for the court system to churn they end up worse off because they aren't working and they are away from their families. And the costs go through the roof!

Anonymous said...

Well in my opinion I think marijuana should be legal simply because the first thing people against it call users potheads and burn outs that are lazy. If this is true then putting them in jail is teaching them exactly what how to be lazier?? Now that we have freed up the jails by 80% make real use of it by locking up murders, rapist and molester's better yet just give them the death penalty. The people who drink and drive first offence give the a year on probation and suspension of drivers license second offence five years in the state prison and their never allowed to retain a driver's license again nor are they allowed to have a vehicle or insurance in their name. I believe it's more than fair because not only are they risking their own lives but everyone else's on the road. Thieves this is a no brainier if some jail time doesn't teach them a lesson then cut off their hand an so on seriously they will think twice. Maybe the jails need to be more strict make them build fences clean ditchs whatever make them stand on beer bottles all day if they disobey or talk back and if they get down shot them in the rear quit serving these clowns like little scared bi€ches..

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think when the police say "Stop or I will shoot", They should.

Anonymous said...

To reduce jail and prison costs they should only provide bread and water, no TV, no internet, no library, no free health care, no pillow or blanket. To save taxpayer's money we need to go back to the old days. These prisoners live better than our elderly. And you can bet there would be less crime.

Anonymous said...

Just another liberal figuring a way to let low life trash out of prison so they can get back to their trade (crime) !