Justice Reinvestment in Pennsylvania
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.