Pennsylvania’s prison population has grown continually since 1982, in part due to the increasing number of non-violent offenders who are admitted and high failure rates among people under community supervision. These high re-incarceration rates may be due in part to inmates receiving ineffective programming.
In 2011, Governor Tom Corbett, Chief Justice Ronald Castille, the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and other state leaders requested technical assistance from the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. Together, they launched Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group.
This program was established under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. It includes state cabinet secretaries, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, court officials, and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Extensive data from state agencies and organizations is compiled, analyzed, and presented to the group, which suggests policies aimed at reducing corrections spending. The savings are then reinvested into measures (e.g., electronic monitoring, problem-solving courts, reentry resources) to improve public safety.
This bipartisan project is part of a national project by the Council of State Governments Justice Center that has so far been adopted in seventeen states. CSG’s goal is to help states design “policies to manage the growth of the corrections system, improve the accountability and integration of resources concentrated in particular communities, and reinvest a portion of the savings generated from these efforts to make communities receiving the majority of people released from prison safer, stronger, and healthier”