Justice Reinvestment in Pennsylvania

In 2015, Pennsylvania embarked on a justice reinvestment approach to further reduce its prison population and corrections costs–building on successes the state experienced after taking the same data-driven approach in 2012.

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, in 2015, Pennsylvania had the highest rate of incarcerated adults in the Northeast and there were approximately 50,000 people incarcerated in state prison, which cost the state more than $2 billion annually. People on supervision who recidivated accounted for a portion of this cost, with nearly one-third of prison beds occupied by people who violated the conditions of their probation or parole. Insufficient county probation resources and inefficient use of parole resources limited the effectiveness of supervision and exacerbated recidivism.

To build on prior efforts and address 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.

This effort culminated in new legislation signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in 2019 that aims to eliminate delays in releasing people with short sentences from prison and streamline the process used to direct people into drug treatment. The legislation is expected to reduce the state prison population by more than 600 people over 5 years, saving taxpayers an estimated $45 million in corrections costs.

Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment News

These important pieces of legislation will cut red tape, reducing bureaucracy will result in savings of time and money, and we will reinvest those savings into criminal justice programs that reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and better serve victims of crime.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

Key Staff


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Carl Reynolds
Senior Legal and Policy Advisor, Research
Carl Reynolds helps manage and develop projects related to court initiatives, corrections, sentencing reform, and juvenile justice issues. Previously, Carl served as director of the Texas Office of Court Administration. From 1997 to 2005, he was general counsel for the
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Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), responsible for prisons, probation, and parole. He also was general counsel to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice—the governing body for TDCJ. Prior to that position, he was the executive director of the Texas Punishment Standards Commission, general counsel to the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, director of the Senate's redistricting staff, and a briefing attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Among other projects, he works on the establishment and evaluation of public defender offices and on justice reinvestment strategies. Carl holds a JD from the University of Texas School of Law, an MA from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and a BA from the University of Cincinnati.
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Patrick Armstrong
Project Manager, State Initiatives
Patrick Armstrong evaluates state statutes, case law, and court rules, as well as engages stakeholders involved in the justice reinvestment process. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, Patrick worked at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, as well
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as for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, where he explored avenues to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He was also an intern for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in California. As a student-athlete on the basketball team at the University of California, Berkeley, Patrick earned a BA in political science and African American studies. He earned his JD from the New York University School of Law.
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