John Wetzel- PA Secretary of Corrections

“In 2012 we passed Justice Reinvestment, an initiative inspired bill, that empowered us to restructure the community corrections system. It also slightly limited who could get sent to a state prison. It eliminated people with misdemeanor threes from getting sent to a state prison. Not a huge number, but for PA’s first time ever we had a carve out of people who we said, “You cannot come to a state prison.” That gave us a mechanism to take some of the savings from the population reduction and to reinvest that in the front end specifically at counties. Started slow, but we’re gaining momentum now. Two years ago we had a 450 inmate reduction, 2013 we had a slight increase, I think less than 100 inmates, and then this year 726 inmate reduction. The coolest part is that the in prison reduction was 908 over the past year. So we’ve really had a lot of momentum.

I think that we’re at a place in our country where the right and left, George Soros and the Koch Brothers are both saying we have to reform corrections. Not a better time to be in this field, and frankly, there’s not a better place to be than Pennsylvania. Our department is fast gaining a reputation of leaders in reform and I would call it smart reform. The thing about criminal justice and corrections in general, is that the research says when we make better decisions, generally better decisions mean being more precise and the front end of who we send, we get better outcomes. It’s kind of counterintuitive to think that we could let more people out of prison and get better outcomes, but just last year, PA released a study, and I think it was the 6 states with the biggest population reduction. Also who had the biggest crime reduction and certainly correlation doesn’t imply causation, but at the very least, what it says is that releasing more people from prison will not cause a crime wave. I’ve gotta believe with a 720 inmate reduction, going into next year, we have to be one of the states that have had the biggest crime reduction. It has to be. We have to be the state with the biggest inmate population reduction so hopefully crime will continue to be reduced. Which it was last year. “

John Wetzel- PA Secretary of Corrections

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