« State editorials set out (different?) views on death penalty's future | Main | ESPN analyst Jalen Rose (sort of) gets max jail sentence for drunk driving »

July 27, 2011

"Pa., N.J. officials question costs of tough sentencing"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article, which starts this way:

As states across the country struggle with anemic revenue, officials are taking a harder look at one subset of government that eats huge chunks of taxpayer money: prisons.

Corrections officials on both sides of the Delaware say the "get tough on crime" philosophy that has governed prison operations since the early 1980s must change.  It's expensive and, in many cases, it's not working.

"The fact that our budget is $1.86 billion has a lot of people rethinking some of the assumptions we've made in the past," said John E. Wetzel, Pennsylvania's secretary of corrections. "When we over-incarcerate individuals -- and there is a portion of our population that we over-incarcerate -- we're not improving public safety.  Quite the opposite."

Advocates of prison reform say Pennsylvania and New Jersey could be well-positioned for change. Both governors are Republican former prosecutors, credentials that buffer accusations that whittling down the prison population means going "soft" on crime.

And Govs. Corbett and Christie have picked corrections chiefs who support a more rehabilitative approach to corrections, a method that, studies show, can reduce recidivism.

Wetzel and New Jersey's corrections commissioner, Gary M. Lanigan, want to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison, diverting them to drug rehabilitation or other programs instead.     "People are realizing that there is a huge cost to incarceration, and there's ways to do it smarter," Lanigan said.  "There are people who belong in prison and there's people who are better served in the community."

Recidivism remains a problem nationwide; roughly half of those released in New Jersey and Pennsylvania return within three years.

But while New Jersey's prison population has declined 11 percent to 21,182 department inmates since its peak in 1999, Pennsylvania's population continues to increase.  Since 1999, Pennsylvania's prison population has increased 41 percent, and the state now holds more than 51,000 people.  In 2009, Pennsylvania incarcerated more people than any other state that year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

July 27, 2011 at 01:22 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201543409d706970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Pa., N.J. officials question costs of tough sentencing":

Comments

this thing is worth to read. we enjoy it

Posted by: thomas sabo charms shop | Aug 4, 2011 10:38:15 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB