More than $2 billion was allocated this year to operate Pennsylvania state correctional institutions. State officials are hoping to use a process known as justice reinvestment to reduce that cost and put those savings into programs that will help stop crime before it starts, reports The Sentinel in Pennsylvania’s Carlisle and Cumberland counties. “This was about a year-long effort and I think it is critically important to reform our criminal justice system to achieve three goals; No. 1, to make communities safer, No. 2, to be able to meet the needs of crime victims and reduce the number of crime victims; and No. 3, to reduce the burden on tax payers in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Elect Joshua Shapiro said. “I believe we can achieve all three of the objectives.”
Shapiro was the chair of a bipartisan working group that in December voted to approve several recommendations for a second justice reinvestment initiative in the state. Justice reinvestment is a data-driven approach to reforming the criminal justice system that has two main steps. The first is to examine the operation of the justice system and find ways to create cost savings. Some of those savings are then reinvested back into programs, policies and strategies aimed at reducing crime and reoffending. The main driver of initial savings is providing prisoners who are serving a short minimum sentence of two years or less the presumption of parole at the completion of their minimum prison term. Corrections Planning Director Bret Bucklen said prisoners with those short minimum sentences are spending on average four to six months extra in prison, which in turn increases the cost to the state. This and other policy changes are projected to save the state $108 million over the next five years, says the Council of State Governments Justice Center.