Pennsylvania prison statistics:
- Number of state prisoners: 51,757
- Number of county jail inmates: ~36,000
- Number of penitentiaries: 26
- Overpopulation in state penitentiaries: 4,000+ inmates
- Recidivism rate: 44%
- Annual corrections budget: $1.86 billion
- Price of new correctional complex at Graterford: $315 million
Historically, Pennsylvania has maintained a “lock them up and throw away the key” prison policy. But a new law mandated by the Criminal Justice Reform Act will have Pennsylvania going in a more progressive direction. The law is projected to decrease the prison population by as many as 4,000 over four years and save up to $350 million over five years.
Offering much needed reform, the new law will target the release of non-violent offenders who are not an immediate threat to society. The law will affect prisoners in jail for crimes including drug offenses, receiving stolen property, and theft. Alternatives to incarceration will be more prevalent, ranging from house-arrest to intensive parole supervision to rehabilitation. The goal is to keep people out of prison, where the odds of successful rehabilitation are virtually nonexistent.
This law is one that is mutually beneficial. Pennsylvania will drastically cut spending on prisons, and people who would otherwise be incarcerated now have a legitimate chance at rehabilitation. The one negative aspect of the law is that it eliminates the release of prisoners who have displayed good behavior while behind bars, but that issue could possibly be addressed in the future. Non-violent offenders can now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they now have better odds of rehabilitation-based sanctions rather than incarceration.