Pennsylvania Media Coverage

In the Media

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel: ‘It’s Frustrating, Sitting at the Back of the System’

John Wetzel is in a unique position.

As Pennsylvania’s corrections secretary, he’s developed a long-lens view of state politics. He has no power to enact laws or invest in social services but at any given time his department oversees more than 50,000 incarcerated people whose lives are directly affected by those laws and those investments (or lack thereof).

Pennsylvania Offers a New ‘Smart on Crime’ Approach. But Does It Actually Work?

That idea of “swift and certain” punishment, in the form of very brief jail stays for minor violators, is baked into a framework unveiled Monday by Pennsylvania officials to reduce the prison population by a thousand inmates by 2020, and reinvest a portion of the $108 million saved to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

Pennsylvania Could Save Millions by Shaving Prison Sentences, Report Says

Barely ahead of Friday’s looming budget deadline, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders on Monday received a last-minute idea for saving more than $100 million in coming years in part by shaving five months off some non-violent offenders’ sentences.

Fixing an Urban Housing Crisis That Most People Can’t See

The issue of community corrections reform is complicated by the extent of misunderstanding that some have about the DOC’s goals and responsibilities. The majority of individuals housed in either DOC-run or contract community corrections facilities aren’t prisoners. They are, for all intents and purposes, free men and women on parole who simply don’t have an approved environment to go back to.

Changes Aim to Meet Future Jail Mandates

Potter County has already taken a number of steps to adapt to the proposed changes, some of which will likely be mandated by the commonwealth or the federal government in the future. Though the reforms are likely to provide cost-savings in the long run, they do require start-up and operational funding, pulling available money from other criminal justice aspects.

Changes Aim to Meet Future Jail Mandates

Potter County has already taken a number of steps to adapt to the proposed changes, some of which will likely be mandated by the commonwealth or the federal government in the future. Though the reforms are likely to provide cost-savings in the long run, they do require start-up and operational funding, pulling available money from other criminal justice aspects.

All 3 Northeastern Pa. Prisons Will Remain Open

After three weeks of angst, employees of the State Correctional Institution at Retreat woke up Thursday to the news that their place of employment will not close — preserving some 400 jobs, at least for the immediate future.

Pittsburgh State Prison Closing to Save Pennsylvania $80M Annually

The Wolf administration said recently it will close Pittsburgh State Prison to save money at a time when inmate numbers are dropping and the state faces a huge budget deficit, but has opted against an earlier plan to also shut down a second facility.

Wolf Administration Statement Ahead of Corrections’ Facility Closure Hearing

Today, Sec. John Wetzel, a national leader in criminal justice, and his staff from the Department of Corrections, including experts on prison population and safety, will testify in front of a joint public hearing. The DOC has seen a historic reduction in their prison population and is able to close two older, expensive state correctional institutions, provide a new position to each impacted staff member, and safely relocate all effected inmates to one of the existing 24 SCIs across the Commonwealth.

Opinion: A Better State Budget for Pennsylvania

The governor’s approach this year is vastly different from his 2015 plan, which called for the largest tax increase in state history and triggered the longest budget impasse in modern memory. It’s also a world away from Mr. Wolf’s retroactive income tax increase proposal last year.

Justice Reinvestment in Pennsylvania: Moving Forward and Reexamining Bail

There is a growing movement in criminal justice reform to re-examine how bail and pretrial detention is used. The movement tends to move away from the use of cash bail–or having to provide money to be released from prison prior to the disposition of a case–and toward the use of things like risk assessments and pretrial services that provide supervision to people awaiting trial.

Justice Reinvestment: Seeking Ways to Reduce Recidivism

Justice reinvestment in Pennsylvania, if enacted as planned, is projected to save the state more than $100 million over the next five years. Roughly half of that money is recommended to be put back into programs meant to reduce crime and re-offending, and in turn save even more money.

Justice Reinvestment: Reducing Cost in the Criminal Justice System

More than $2 billion was allocated this fiscal year to operate Pennsylvania state correctional institutions to house prisoners. State officials are hoping to use a process known as justice reinvestment to reduce that cost and put those savings into programs that will help stop crime before it starts.

Group Recommends Ways to Reduce Pennsylvania’s Prison Population

Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group passed a new set of criminal justice policy recommendations recently that, if implemented successfully, could drive the state prison population down by another 1,000 inmates and save $108 million by 2022.

Opinion: We Can’t Arrest Our Way out of Pennsylvania’s Heroin Epidemic

We must treat those who are nonviolent and in need of help, force drug and insurance companies to be part of the solution, and collaborate with law enforcement, the courts, human services providers, and the medical community as part of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive solution.

Where a Humane Correctional System Thrives

The Washington Times By Tom Wolf ANALYSIS/OPINION: While dozens of states across the country have moved forward with bipartisan-supported criminal justice reforms, Pennsylvania holds a unique place in this effort as the birthplace of the movement. In 1787, many of […]

Opinion: Justice System Must Do Better

Pennsylvanians deserve better and when we know better, we can do better. That’s why Governor Wolf has tasked the Justice Reinvestment Initiative team to look specifically at how to improve the bail system in Pennsylvania.

Couple’s Murder-Suicide Puts Focus on Pennsylvania Bail System

The recent murder-suicide of a couple in Washington County drew criticism of the way a judge handled domestic violence charges that had been pending against the husband, but highlighted what some say is a flawed bail system in Pennsylvania.

Study Shows Probation May Be Answer to Incarceration Costs Reduction

A lot of people are incarcerated for drug offenses across Pennsylvania. But in Allegheny County, many drug arrests are handled through probation rather than prison time. Legal experts are saying Allegheny County’s approach may prove a good way to cut down on incarceration costs.

Start Early for Real Criminal Justice Reform

Impoverishment aligns itself with violence, crime, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, loss and hopelessness, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told a room full of attendees wrapping up breakfast at the National Forum on Criminal Justice at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel Monday morning.

Opinion: Keystone Criminal Justice

As lifelong conservatives, we’re proud to call ourselves tough on crime and to support lengthy prison terms for dangerous felons. But after a long, taxpayer-funded era of mass incarceration, it’s time we face some hard facts: Our bloated, hugely expensive criminal-justice system has produced disappointing results.

Pennsylvania Parole Supervision Rate US’ Highest, Study Says

The state began in 2012 to stop technical parole violators from being sent back to prison. There’s been a slight drop in state inmates, but there were more parolees on the street and growing caseloads for parole agents who say they’re already understaffed.

Bipartisan Group to Study Pennsylvania Criminal Justice System

High-ranking Pennsylvania officials from both parties recently announced a new review of the state’s criminal justice system. Despite recent reductions in the prison population, they said, Pennsylvania has the highest incarceration rate among the states in the Northeast.

Smart Talk: Reviewing Pennsylvania’s Criminal Justice System

The Council of State Governments Justice Center has worked with 24 states to find ways to reduce corrections spending, lower recidivism and redirect those funds to proven public safety strategies. The Justice Center is now reviewing Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. Appearing on this recent episode of Smart Talk to discuss what works and what doesn’t are Marc Pelka, Deputy Director of State Initiatives for the Council of State Governments Justice Center and Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Drop in Prison Population Is a Change Worth Cheering

Ben Felker-Quinn and Ashley Henderson’s op-ed (Gov. Corbett’s prison reform effort in Pennsylvania doesn’t look much like ‘justice’ or ‘reinvestment’ at all, July 23) is right about one thing. More could be done to reduce prison populations. But to deny the value of the 2012 corrections reforms is just eristic.

Fewer Inmates Return to Jail

Going to prison is awful; returning after being released is even worse. Recidivism also is terrible for taxpayers, given that the annual cost of incarceration is about $30,000 per prisoner.