According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pennsylvania corrections system housed 8,200 inmates at an average cost of just over $11,000 per year in 1980, but in 2010 the population of inmates increased to 51,270 and cost taxpayers an average of over $34,000 to house. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is backing a plan that would cut more than $350 million out of the state prison system over the next five years, as reported by The Patriot-News.
However, the Governor and General Assembly are on a tight schedule, as budget negotiations for next year are already underway with a completion date near the end of June.
How does the state plan to save money on the prison system?
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report mentions three specific areas to help the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections save money: using prison sentences for serious violent offenders, improving the efficiency of the parole program, and increasing funding for programs dedicated to helping victims of crime.
Who came up with the ideas to reduce spending on prisons?
The PA Independent reports that the ideas stem from a bipartisan table of officials from both the public and private sector. The Associated Press reports that Pennsylvania is one of 16 states working with the United States Justice Department's justice reinvestment initiative. The report indicates that the U.S. Department of Justice, Pennsylvania, and the Pew Center teamed up for research to uncover money saving ideas.
How much money does Pennsylvania currently spend on prisons?
According to the PA Independent, Pennsylvania prisons are scheduled to receive $1.87 billion in next year's budget, which is the third highest expenditure in the $27.1 billion spending plan proposed by the governor. According to the AP report, the current level of spending has ballooned to six times the spending in 1980.
What are the proposals of the commission?
The Gant Daily reports that the commission wants to: increase support for state and community level programs for victims, expand local programs to curb recidivism or utilize other non-prison sentences, and improve efficiencies in the parole process.
According to the report, one-third of persons remain incarcerated 200 days past the minimum sentence to complete the parole program, which adds around $77 million per year to the Department of Corrections budget. In short, according to the Gant Daily, by better utilizing the resources available and investing the savings in other areas, Pennsylvania could dramatically alter the spending on corrections.
Jason Gallagher is a long-time 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.