Phila. Jail Overcrowding: First-Time Offenders Mostly Responsible


Many police officers and judges believe that a few repeat offenders commit most of the crimes that keep courtrooms hopping and jails jammed. The Philadelphia Daily News says that a new and still-unreleased study of the Philadelphia prison system shows that first-time offenders, rather than repeaters, are more of a reason for the overcrowding in the city’s jails. Most of those behind bars aren’t violent offenders, researcher Paul Heroux writes in the study. Former Prisons Commissioner Leon King commissioned Heroux, a former military analyst, to research prison data with an eye on alleviating crowding.

Heroux examined data on inmates discharged between 2000 and 2006, and found that reincarceration rates fell to about 35 percent. Instead of recidivism, increased admissions and longer length of stay are to blame for packing Philadelphia’s prisons, he found. City prisons admit an average of 102 inmates per day but discharge only 99 daily, amounting to an annual jump of almost 1,100 inmates. Inmates’ length of stay rose to an average of 91 days, up from about 74 days in past years. With more than 9,100 inmates in six city jails built for about 6,400, Heroux says, the city must rethink how it punishes its law-breakers.


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