Philadelphia’s prison population can be reduced without jeopardizing public safety if policymakers find ways to keep low-level offenders awaiting trial out of jail and continue to streamline the criminal-justice process, a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts says. In its study, “Philadelphia’s Crowded, Costly Jails: The Search for Safe Solutions,” Pew found that the increase in county inmates from 1999 to 2008 was driven largely by the number of men and woman incarcerated while awaiting trial–and not by convicted criminals, according to the city’s Daily News.
Without steps to trim the size of the city’s jail population, the “gains the city has made in controlling the jail population may be hard to maintain,” said Larry Eichel, project director of Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative. The report notes that leaders in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system already have been collaborating to cut the inmate population with some success. The number of inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System reached an all-time average monthly high of 9,787 in January 2009. The number had dropped to 8,306 as of Thursday.