The Jury is In: Corrections Reform is Working

Remember the time lawmakers from both parties came together in Harrisburg and unanimously passed important, groundbreaking reform legislation?

It’s not a joke. It happened in 2012.

As a result of research and advocacy efforts by a transpartisan coalition including the Commonwealth Foundation, the late Democratic Gov. George Leader’s family, the ACLU, and many others, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a landmark corrections reform package.

The goals of this bipartisan legislation were many: to better differentiate between violent and nonviolent offenders, and treat them accordingly; to reduce prison population and recidivism rates while keeping the public safe; and to save taxpayers millions of dollars by investing in a smarter, safer, more humane corrections system.

Now, nearly three years later, the reforms appear to be working: The latest data show historic lows in recidivism in Pennsylvania and real taxpayer savings.

According to the Department of Corrections, the most recent six-month and three-year recidivism rates are the lowest the department has ever recorded, while one-year rates are second-lowest in Department history. These rates are the result of smarter and more humane corrections policies, which improve lives and lead to savings for taxpayers, as my colleague Elizabeth Stelle has previously pointed out.