Pennsylvania’s corrections system spends millions of taxpayer dollars sending nonviolent offenders to prison and does not do enough to help them meet conditions for early release, said a study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Taxpayers spent $49 million housing inmates beyond the minimum release dates of sentences for misdemeanors and minor felonies committed in 2010. “The whole package will include a substantial amount of money that can be saved, and at the same time, we can improve the system,” said Tony Fabelo, the center’s research director.
The state’s prison population climbed from 7,000 to 51,645 since 1980, in part because of mandatory-minimum sentences, longer prison terms, and incarceration of less violent offenders, said Katrina Currie of the Commonwealth Foundation. The state says 55.6 percent of the inmates are violent offenders. Corbett and other state leaders appointed the 32-member Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment Workgroup last year to study how to save money on corrections. The Justice Center is expected to suggest keeping some low-risk inmates in county jails or treatment, increasing money for drug and alcohol treatment and violence prevention, and expanding use of technology such as electronic monitoring. “If you can get these nonviolent offenders into treatment quicker, so they could be paroled at their minimum sentence, there certainly could be some savings,” said Linda Rosenberg of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.