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Current JRI in Pennsylvania (2016)

Pennsylvania has achieved measurable reductions and savings through our initial participation in JRI, but more can and should be done to reduce crime, reduce victims, and avert further growth of our state and county prison populations.  Recognizing this, leaders of PCCD, the Governor’s Office, the General Assembly, the Judiciary, the PA Department of Corrections (DOC), the PA Probation and Parole (PBPP) and other key stakeholders from our Commonwealth formally requested assistance in late 2015 from PEW and CSG to participate in a Phase II JRI process.

Although Pennsylvania celebrates the positive impacts from our JRI efforts, we recognize that more must be done to bring our state in line with others in our region and across the country. For instance, in 2013, Pennsylvania had the highest incarceration rate in the Northeast, with 391 adults in prison per 100,000 residents. Between 2004 and 2013, the Commonwealth’s prison population grew 22 percent, a trend that stands in contrast to neighboring states New York and Jersey, whose prison populations dropped 16 percent each over the same period, all while their reported index crime continued to fall. Over this period, the prison population for all states increased 6 percent, almost one-quarter the increase seen in Pennsylvania.

In addition, as the Commonwealth’s prison population has climbed, costs have increased to accommodate the growth. Pennsylvania taxpayers are left to bear the cost of funding our corrections system. Between FY 2005 and FY 2014, state spending on corrections increased 44 percent, from $1.5 to $2.2 billion. Unless Pennsylvania adopts a change in direction on criminal justice policy, these costs will continue to escalate.

We believe that the key to achieving such impacts is addressing pressures on the front end of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. The impact of Pennsylvania’s previous JRI approach primarily was felt on the back end, in corrections and parole. For the state to make gains in cutting costs, bending the curve downward on incarcerated populations, and reducing recidivism, Pennsylvania must address and reform the cost drivers rooted in the front end of the system. Determining these drivers will require intensive analysis of data from all parts of our system: crime and arrest, diversion sentencing, county probation and parole, programs and treatment to lower recidivism, jail, prison, parole, and parole supervision.

In order to guide the JRI process, a new Justice Reinvestment Working Group has been convened, and includes representatives from the Governor’s Office; agency heads from DOC, PBPP, PCS and PCCD; representatives from the Judiciary; adult probation and parole; the District Attorneys Association; and the Majority and Minority Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee.  This bi-partisan and multi-agency working group is partnering with CSG Justice Center staff to analyze Pennsylvania’s criminal justice data, develop strategies and solutions based on that data, with an overarching goal of developing and implementing policies and programs (e.g., pre-trial diversion and treatment) that will continue to avert the growth of the Commonwealth’s prison population while ensuring that public safety is not compromised.  We will seek to invest in evidence-based programs and innovative practices proven to reduce recidivism rates in the long-run.