While the national number of state prisoners dropped last year, Pennsylvania’s prison population continues to spike with no relief in sight, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Pennsylvania had a 4.3 percent increase in prisoners last year, says the Pew Center on the States. Pennsylvania has been slow to revamp its sentencing and parole rules, even as the inmate population has been on the rise for decades: It increased 523 percent between 1980 and 2009, from 8,243 to 51,326. Gov. Ed Rendell said the state must reverse the trend of pumping ever more money into housing prisoners. He said increased funding for public education was “one great way to address this problem, because it provides an opportunity for our young people to choose the right path.”
Among the main reasons for the national decline: States are adopting guidelines reflecting research that shows low-level offenders, as well those who have violated technical aspects of their parole, can be rehabilitated more effectively in community programs rather than in prison. “We are starting to see a triumph of science over sound bites,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance project at the Pew Center.