Structural prison reforms are already being put into place, designed to produce better outcomes and save the state up to $350-million dollars over five years. That was the first half of the Justice Reinvestment initiative (SB 100), which was signed into law in July.
Like the first bill, the second piece of the Justice Reinvestment effort (HB 135) has cleared the General Assembly with bipartisan support. It will reinvest a portion of the prison system savings into the front lines of the justice system, like local law enforcement and county probation & parole departments.
“An effective probation system can lower recidivism among people on probation and can also manage growth in your prison system because of more effective management of offenders,” explains Marc Pelka, program director with the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
The CSG Justice Center has worked with 16-states on Justice Reinvestment, and Pelka says each strategy is tailored to the issues driving growth in those states prison systems. “So although the individual policies are different for each particular state, the overall outcome is reduced spending on corrections and reinvestment in areas that increase public safety.”
A Justice Reinvestment working group first met at the Governor’s Residence in January. Radio PA spoke at length with Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel about their progress in June.