New Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel isn't your standard political appointee, says the Harrisburg Patriot-News. He offers no bureaucratic veneer or double-talk, says the Harrisburg Patriot-News. The hulking former semi-pro football player gets straight to the point: he's changing the way Pennsylvania prisons do business. “It's one of the biggest changes we've seen in decades,” said Ann Schwartzman of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. “The Department of Corrections is rethinking prisons as we know them.”
In his first months in office, Wetzel raised eyebrows and some political hackles by canceling the planned construction of one new prison and revising plans for another. “Prison construction is not economic development,” Wetzel said. “We're spending too much money on corrections.” One way to reduce the nearly $2 billion Pennsylvania spends each year on prisons is doing a better job keeping inmates from coming back after they are released. The root cause of a lot of crime is an addiction issue, he said. “Treat that, and provide support when they return to the community.” Pennsylvania's treatment results are generally good, so Wetzel is focusing on the return to the community.