Several areas of the Pennsylvania budget are still being hammered out, but one item targeted for cost-cutting is right on track. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, state lawmakers have sent a prison reform bill to the desk of Governor Tom Corbett, where he is expected to sign it into law. The prison reform bill would save Pennsylvania money by keeping nonviolent and less serious offenders out of prison in order to focus on treatment and alternative sentencing, which could include house arrest, according to The Patriot-News.
How much money will the reform save?
According to the Delaware County Times, the new legislation will save Pennsylvania $2.5 million in the 2012-2013 budget year, and that total is expected to climb to $83 million in five years. All told the new measures could reduce Pennsylvania spending on prisons by $253 million over the next half decade, according to The Patriot-News.
Where will the money saved be directed?
Another bill is pending in the General Assembly that will direct some of the savings from the reform program to counties, since county prisons will be hosting more inmates, but that particular element of the prison reform package could be forced to wait until the fall session due to the state budget deadline taking a priority, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. According to the Post-Gazette, some of the money will also be directed for local law enforcement grants and victim services programs.
Was the Pennsylvania prison reform plan supported by Democrats or Republicans?
The prison reform bill was a bipartisan effort that saw Democrats and Republicans in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate unanimously vote to approve the measure, according to CBS21 News. In addition, The Patriot-News report indicates that the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania also supports the reform, which means the bill has a large amount of support behind it.
Where did the ideas for the reform program come from?
Earlier this year, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative was created, according to a press release from the Department of Corrections. The committee was made up of judges, lawmakers, and other officials and was tasked with finding a way to decrease spending on corrections while still increasing public safety. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a national nonprofit group, the Council of State Governments, helped develop the bill and also assisted other states in the development of their cost reduction plans for corrections.
Jason Gallagher is a longtime Pennsylvania resident. He has experiences in trends and developments in many regions from having lived in many parts of the Keystone State, and currently resides in the Pittsburgh area.