Criminal justice policy that offers less spending, lower crime and improved outcomes for offenders—too good to be true? Actually, that is the result of recent corrections reforms in Pennsylvania and other states.
So, it’s no surprise the federal government wants to follow our lead. Citing Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a change in policy at the Justice Department that mirrors reforms signed by Gov. Corbett last year.
These new policies focus on keeping low-level, nonviolent drug offenders out of expensive prisons. Holder noted, as did a transpartisan coalition Commonwealth Foundation was part of, that long prison sentences often don’t reduce crime but do make offenders more likely to commit violent crime after release.
Instead, being “smart on crime” means addressing small crimes immediately and supporting corrections programs that work effectively in communities—not relying on maximum security prisons. These programs have proven to be cost effective and to reduce recidivism and crime rates.
This type of bottom-up, innovative reform allows the federal government to pattern a nation policy on states that have already proven its effectiveness: Federalism really does work.
Here’s to the Obama administration learning from the successes of Pennsylvania and other reform-minded states!