PA Parole Moratorium Swells Prison Population, Raises Safety Concerns


Two weeks after Gov. Rendell halted paroling state inmates, the population of Pennsylvania’s 27 prisons continues to swell, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Officially, the Sept. 30 monthly census – taken one day after Rendell froze paroles in response to the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald by a paroled felon – showed that the inmate population of 46,883 was eight percent above what prison officials say is needed to maintain “quality of life and safety for both staff and inmates.”

Prison experts now say overcrowding is actually closer to 17 percent above capacity and they worry about how the system will hold up without that monthly release of 1,100 parolees. “If this lasts two months, you’re talking about enough people to fill a completely new large prison,” said William DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, an inmate advocacy group. Rendell named John S. Goldkamp, head of Temple University’s criminal justice department, to review how the Board of Probation and Parole decides who gets paroled. Goldkamp’s review will presumably be expedited, though Rendell set no deadline.


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