Pennsylvania Gets Landmark Corrections Reform

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania passed the final piece, House Bill 135, of a landmark corrections reform package that transforms our ailing prison system to one that works better for YOU.

Commonwealth Foundation applauds Gov. Tom Corbett and Sec. Wetzel for their leadership and thanks House and Senate members for their unanimous bipartisan support for real corrections reform via SB 100 and HB 135.

Over the past 30 years, Pennsylvania’s incarceration rate exploded more than 500 percent to over 50,000 inmates.  As a result, taxpayers spend 17 times as much on the Department of Corrections today as they did in 1980.  At a cost of $35,000 per inmate per year, it is not a stretch to say taxpayers have been ill served by a system that locks up more people for longer periods, but fails to deter future crimes.

Here’s a look at how these reforms offer a new 21st Century vision for criminal justice and provides better outcomes for taxpayers, communities and offenders:

  • Taxpayers:  The reforms are projected to save more than $250 million within five years.  States such as New York and Texas have embraced similar policy changes, saving tax dollars while significantly reducing both their crime and imprisonment rates
  • Communities: Part of the savings will be used to create a more effective correctional system and safer communities. These programs encourage smarter policing procedures, such as “hot spot” policing  and proven practices to reduce the number of repeat offenders.
  • Offenders: Provides funding and utilizes more efficient communication technology to increase parole hearing capacity. Currently, system inefficiencies and lack of capacity have resulted in 1,900 inmates locked up in prison when they would otherwise qualify for parole. This costs taxpayers more than $66 million per year.

We here at CF are proud to be part, along with Gov. George M. Leader, his family, and many others, of a transpartisan coalition favoring “real corrections reform, right now.” We are pleased these reforms provide meaningful changes to save tax dollars while improving public safety.