February 18, 2016
Leaders Launch Public Safety Initiative to Tackle Drivers of Cost,
Incarceration and Recidivism
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and leaders from
both political parties and all three branches of government today launched an
extensive review of the state’s criminal justice system as part of a new
Justice Reinvestment Initiative designed to reduce ineffective corrections
spending and invest those savings in proven public safety strategies.
criminal justice system is a failure to deliver on the promise of a fair and
just society, and we must all work together to ensure Pennsylvania leads the
nation in rehabilitation and not incarceration,” Governor Wolf said. “While
much progress has been made, there is more we can do and today is the beginning
of an important process to look at how we can improve our criminal justice
system from sentencing guidelines to our bail system. Working together, we can
make many significant changes that will make our system fairer, improve public
safety and save millions of dollars.”
currently has the highest incarceration rate among all states in the Northeast,
despite reducing its prison population in recent years. The Council of State
Governments (CSG) Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization
assisting the state in its justice reinvestment approach, today released an
overview of the state’s criminal justice system. Preliminary findings include:
is one of only four states in the nation where corrections spending exceeds
expenditures on higher education;
2004 and 2014, corrections expenditures increased by 40 percent, from $1.5
billion to $2.2 billion.
the same period, the state’s incarceration rate increased by 20 percent.
Conversely, New York and New Jersey saw their incarceration rates drop by 20
and 21 percent, respectively.
Department of Corrections has requested $2.3 billion in state funds for the
2015–2016 budget, a 7-percent increase over the prior year.
legislators from both sides of the aisle work together to tackle these tough
issues, we create genuine results,” House Speaker Mike Turzai said. “We proved
that with a justice reinvestment approach we took in 2012. That bipartisan
spirit must be invoked again in order to build on the positive outcomes that we
are seeing to create a safer and more cost effective system.”
justice reinvestment approach has already proven to be effective in
Pennsylvania. After the state’s prison population increased by 28 percent (from
40,090 to 51,184 people) between 2002 and 2012, a Justice Reinvestment
Initiative conducted by the state in 2012 helped spur a decline in the
population to 49,914 people by the end of 2015. These changes generated almost
$13 million in savings, close to $4 million of which was reinvested in areas to
enhance public safety, such as victims’ services, effective policing
procedures, strengthening probation, and local reentry strategies.
has certainly made significant headway over the last few years with strong
improvements to our criminal justice system,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe
Scarnati said. “It is vital that we continue to work towards increasing
efficiencies and reducing the costs of our corrections system. We need to
reduce recidivism to benefit our communities and help ensure that taxpayer
dollars that are being sent to Harrisburg are being used productively.”
impacts from the 2012 reforms, other drivers of incarceration and costs at the
state and local levels remain unaddressed. Therefore, the latest justice
reinvestment effort will focus on the front end of the system, including
sentencing and pretrial policies.
were taking on increases of 1,500 inmates each year. In turn, our taxpayers
were taking on enormous costs. The 2012 corrections and parole reforms halted a
lot of that,” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of
Corrections and board member of the CSG Justice Center. “But Pennsylvanians
aren’t satisfied with simply treading water. They are counting on this process
to curb costs while recalibrating our system so that resources are directed at
strategies that can lower crime and recidivism rates.”
the state’s new initiative, Gov. Wolf today also established a bipartisan
working group of 35 representatives from the executive, legislative, and
judicial branches of state and local government, as well as other criminal
honored to lead this bipartisan panel of experts as we work together to reform
our criminal justice system in ways that make our communities safer, enrich the
lives of those involved in the system and protect the interests of
taxpayers,” said Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime
and Delinquency and chair of the working group. “Working together we will
develop a comprehensive policy package that will strengthen our Commonwealth.”
the year, the working group will guide the CSG Justice Center’s analysis of
state and local criminal justice system data in order to develop policy options
for introduction in the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.
Thomas G. Saylor, who has joined the Governor and Legislative Leaders in
supporting the process, noted: “Justice reinvestment provides a clear
opportunity to do a thoughtful analysis of our criminal justice challenges.
Judges, who are carrying out innovative practices in courtrooms across the
commonwealth, have valuable perspectives that will help the working group
identify practical policy alternatives.”
initiative also received bi-partisan and bi-cameral support from all four
chairs of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committees.
first wave of criminal justice reforms have finally started to drive down
Pennsylvania's inmate population and costs and have provided a means of
investing in successful strategies to further drive down incarceration;
however, this was just the beginning," said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf.
"We have broken the barriers to rethinking corrections policies on all
fronts from rehabilitating non-violent drug offenders, to addressing mandatory
minimum sentences, and expunging minor criminal records. I look forward
to working with our partners on this latest justice reinvestment initiative to
find more reforms and strategies to further reduce Pennsylvania's inmate
population and corrections spending."
together to find effective and efficient ways to improve public safety is a
fundamental responsibility of state government," Rep. Ron Marsico said.
helped us reduce our prison population and costs,” Sen. Daylin Leach said. “It
should be refined and continued, but it's also time to consider whether
spending tax dollars on lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent offenders make
us any safer."
first year serving as Judiciary Chairman, I have already seen the stark
differences in outcomes across populations, counties, and offenses.,” Rep.
Joseph Petrarca. “It is clear that we need to do more to control costs, protect
the public, and improve outcomes for families"
Justice Center has helped 24 other states—including West Virginia, North
Carolina, and Ohio—apply the justice reinvestment approach. The initiative is
made possible through funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S.
Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
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Contacts: Jeffrey Sheridan, Governor’s Office, 717-783-1116
Leonard, PCCD, 717-265-8539