The final report of the CSG Justice Center outlines policy recommendations developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment Working Group to reduce release delays for people serving short sentences in state prison and focus state attention on improving county probation, among other things.
In 2012, Pennsylvania employed a data-driven justice reinvestment approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies to improve public safety. Following this effort, the General Assembly voted unanimously to enact legislation based on a justice reinvestment policy framework (Act 122 and Act 196), and as a result of these and other policy reforms, Pennsylvania has experienced a decrease in its state prison population and averted significant corrections costs.
Despite the declining prison population and averted corrections costs, however, Pennsylvania has the highest rate of incarcerated adults in the Northeast and there are approximately 50,000 people incarcerated in state prison, which cost the state more than $2 billion annually. People on supervision who recidivate account for a portion of this cost, with nearly one-third of prison beds occupied by people who have violated the conditions of their probation or parole. Insufficient county probation resources and inefficient use of parole resources limit the effectiveness of supervision and exacerbate recidivism.
To build on prior efforts and address current challenges related to costs, supervision, and recidivism, state leaders again embarked on a justice reinvestment approach in 2015 with intensive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment Working Group—which included stakeholders from all three branches of government—worked with CSG Justice Center staff to review analyses and develop policy options that will (1) realize savings by addressing ineffective short state prison sentences, (2) invest in more effective county probation to hold people accountable, and (3) improve pretrial and sentencing policies to further reduce recidivism. By adopting these proposed policies, Pennsylvania is projected to reduce the state prison population by 1,032 people and avert at least $108 million in corrections costs between FY2018 and FY2022. This will enable the state to reinvest savings in strategies to improve public safety, including strengthening probation and parole supervision and increasing funding for programs that have been shown to reduce recidivism.
In December 2016, the Justice Reinvestment Working Group voted unanimously to support the policies detailed in the justice reinvestment policy framework and to include them in legislation that the General Assembly will consider in 2017.
The fifth presentation to the Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group summarizes criminal justice challenges, highlights key goals, and details policy proposals.
The fourth presentation to the Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group focuses on prioritizing recidivism reduction and understanding sentencing choices and outcomes as well as potential policy options.