Senate Passes Prison Reform Legislation

In an effort to close the budget gap, the Senate passed prison reform legislation expected to save the Commonwealth up to $100 million within the next three years.

Led by Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Senate Democrats announced back in February that taking a smart approach to cutting corrections costs would be a top priority in this legislative session.

“The corrections budget has spiraled out of control, and this is a perfect example of where we can find ways to slash spending without impacting taxpayers,” said Costa. “I’m very pleased that we were able to work across the aisle and pass substantive bi-partisan legislation that slows down spending yet is smart and tough on crime.”

“Non-violent offenders who are eligible to serve out the final months of their sentence in an intermediate facility or who miss a meeting with their parole officer get lumped into the already bloated state prison population,” said Democratic Judiciary Chairman Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware). “Pennsylvanians end up footing the bill just because there is no other alternative, and this is one of the many ways lawmakers can work to make government run more efficiently.”

The changes only relate to non-violent offenders who are nearing the end of their prison sentences and those who commit technical violations while on parole.

By finding alternative sentences for parole violators and placing nonviolent offenders in community corrections centers or other facilities, the prison system could end up seeing 3,500 fewer inmates each year. It costs Pennsylvania $35,000 to incarcerate one inmate for a year.

The Senate worked with Department of Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard to craft the reform measures contained in Senate Bills 1145, 1275, and 1161.

Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D-Philadelphia) and Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery County) were credited for their leadership on this issue.

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