Pennsylvania Dramatically Lowers State Prison Population in the Wake of Policy Changes

By The Council of State Governments Justice Center Staff

US Map with PA highlightedIn 2018, Pennsylvania’s state prison population decreased by more than a thousand people, or 2.2 percent, which is the largest recorded year-over-year decrease in the state’s history. The drop is due to decreases in admissions to prison for both new crimes and parole revocations.

Governor Tom Wolf and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel attributed the dramatic decrease, in part, to criminal justice system policy changes that have occurred in recent years, such as diversion from prison to community corrections facilities for people who violate certain conditions of parole. The state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) legislation, which passed in 2012, also spurred the decrease.

JRI 2, another policy package designed to further lower the prison population and reinvest savings in strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, failed to pass in the last legislative session.

Learn more about how Pennsylvania lowered its prison population in the Philadelphia Inquirer.