Philly Columnist: PA’s $600M Plan to Build 3 New Prisons ‘Makes No Sense’


Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller questions why Pennsylvania’s prison budget keeps growing–now to almost $2 billion–while other state spending has been slashed. “Like college tuition,” she writes, “prison costs never go down. Though two prisons are scheduled to close in June, the Commonwealth is spending a projected $600 million on three new facilities. Meanwhile, the governor espouses funds “being moved to the ‘front end’ of the justice system – victim services, local policing, county-based offender treatment, improved probation services.”

“This is a gigantic waste of taxpayers’ money,” William DiMascio of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, which advocates for inmates and their families, said the prison construction. “We’ve relied increasingly on incarceration as a response to crime, upping the ante on bricks and mortar, and less money on programming that might be effective in fighting recidivism.” Heller writes, “It makes no sense to spend more on prisons than smart policing and sentencing, halfway houses, and treatment centers. As (state corrections chief John) Wetzel told me, ‘We hold every other profession to results, except corrections.’ So far, the results are not impressive.”

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