Prisons en Study: PA Per-Inmate Health Care Cost Down, State Bill Up <p>When most Pennsylvanians are incarcerated, the Department of Corrections must foot the bill for their health care costs.</p><p>That’s according to Susan Bensinger, Deputy Press Secretary, who said the department works to pay that bill in a way that provides community-standard care for the inmates while utilizing taxpayer money in the most efficient way possible.</p><p>A study released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation suggests that the department has been successful in that mission.</p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:37:56 +0000 Jessica Nath 32323 at State Corrections Secretary Says When Sentencing, We Need to Consider the Offender <p><a href="">John Wetzel</a>, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, is responsible for the state prison system, from inmates, to employees, to a budget of nearly $2 billion. And he's trying to take a holistic approach to the corrections system.</p><p>With more than 20 years of experience in the corrections industry, he's part of a sentencing commission that's developing tools to help trial judges better assess the risks and needs of offenders.</p><p>He says the key to that assessment is looking at the root causes of crime.</p><p>"Based on the number of prior arrests, the age of the offender, based on a bunch of other factors, we can predict the likelihood that the individual will commit another crime."</p><p>By looking at these "criminogenic needs," or needs that lead to crime, and by using cognitive therapy and other programming, Wetzel says offenders can learn to make better decisions, think differently and reduce their likelihood to commit future crimes. Fri, 21 Mar 2014 23:06:35 +0000 Essential Pittsburgh 26247 at State Corrections Secretary Says When Sentencing, We Need to Consider the Offender The Innocence Project's Nina Morrison Describes Wrongful Convictions <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="323" src="//" width="575"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 17px;">Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project, speaks on her organization's work to exonerate the innocent and reform a system responsible for many unjust imprisonments by telling the story of Michael Morton, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 25 years.</span></p> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:17:51 +0000 The Chautauqua Institution 26000 at Proving Personalized Support for Probationers Reduces Prison Reentry <p>The fact that our prisons are overcrowded is not news. But how do we help formerly incarcerated people re-enter society and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders?</p><p>One solution could be taking place at the Allegheny County probation office day reporting centers. They focus on medium, and high risk offenders in order to identify services and supervision that can be most helpful.</p><p>Ron Seyko is the probation office director for Allegheny County. He said the job of the probation office is to motivate individuals to get training and life skills that will help them become contributing members of society.</p><p>When it comes to the day centers, he says there’s a body of research supporting their efforts. When compared with probation offices that don’t have reporting centers <a href="">the numbers are compelling</a>. Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:15:47 +0000 Essential Pittsburgh 25805 at More Than 81,000 Children Have a Parent in Prison in PA <p>When she was a baby, Kayla Bowyer of Pittsburgh was adopted by her grandparents because her mother was in and out of Allegheny County Jail.<br /><br />Her grandfather died when she was 10 and her ‘Grams' had to go to work to support Bowyer, her younger brother and three cousins.<br />&nbsp;</p><p></p> Sun, 02 Mar 2014 17:38:23 +0000 Emily DeMarco of PublicSource and Jacob Seibel of Citizens' Voice 25224 at More Than 81,000 Children Have a Parent in Prison in PA Reducing Mandatory Prison Sentences <p>In an effort to mitigate <a href="">overcrowding </a>in American prisons, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.</p><p>Critics of the bill say these sentences are necessary because they provide prosecutors the leverage to seek cooperation from criminals.</p><p>Angus Love of the Pennsylvania Institutional <a href="">Law Project </a>explains this overpopulation is due in part to the residual effects of the government’s “war on drugs” as well as a shift in case management and the way sentences are given.&nbsp;</p><p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 19:03:47 +0000 Essential Pittsburgh 24797 at Reducing Mandatory Prison Sentences DOJ Closes Investigation of Western Penitentiary <p>The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded its two-year investigation of physical and sexual abuse at SCI-Pittsburgh.</p><p>“The safety and security of inmates charged to our custody is very important to us, and we do take it very seriously,” said Susan McNaughton, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman. “So we worked cooperatively with the Department of Justice on a number of issues and actually have made so much progress that they’ve decided now to go ahead and close their investigation.”</p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 19:10:40 +0000 Jessica Nath 22592 at Report: Higher Graduation Rates Equal Lower Crime Costs <p>Pennsylvania could save as much as $737 million in annual crime costs if the male high school graduation rate increased by 5 percent. That&rsquo;s according to a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education.</p><p>Nationally, annual savings could total $18.5 billion.</p><p>Research from the Department of Justice shows that 67 percent of inmates in state prisons, 56 percent of federal inmates and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not complete high school.</p> Mon, 23 Sep 2013 07:30:00 +0000 Patrick Higgins 16737 at Federal Investigation of State Prison's Treatment of Inmates with Mental Illness <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The US Department of Justice released a report last Friday stating that a Pennsylvania State prison violated the civil rights of inmates with serious mental illness and/or intellectual disabilities.</span></p><p>The investigators found that the Cambria County prison they investigated placed mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time as a way of "warehousing" them.</p><p>The percentage of prisoners on the state's mental health roster has increased by more than 50 percent, since 1999, accounting for more than 20 percent of all inmates in the PA prison system.</p><p> Mon, 03 Jun 2013 20:26:11 +0000 Heather McClain 10701 at Federal Investigation of State Prison's Treatment of Inmates with Mental Illness Pennsylvania to Sell Two State Prisons <p>Pennsylvania could save a projected $5.2 million a year in maintenance costs with the proposed <a href="">sale of 13 surplus properties</a>. The Department of General Services will present its plan in the next few weeks to Gov. Tom Corbett to sell off surplus land and buildings.</p><p>The Senate State Government and House Government Committees held hearings last week on the department's annual disposition plan. In the past two years, the state has sold off 36 properties for $29 million.</p> Mon, 20 May 2013 07:30:00 +0000 Michael Lynch 9555 at A Dialogue On The Death Penalty With Sister Helen Prejean <p></p><p><a href=""><strong>Sister Helen Prejean</strong></a>, has been an advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, and a spiritual advisor for death row inmates and their families for decades.</p><p>Her bestselling book, <em>Dead Man Walking</em><em>: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States</em> inspired an Oscar nominated film of the same name. This week, Sister Helen comes to Pittsburgh's <a href="">Rodef Shalom Congregation</a> to speak about capital punishment and the nation's criminal justice system. Thu, 16 May 2013 17:30:00 +0000 Heather McClain 9676 at A Dialogue On The Death Penalty With Sister Helen Prejean