Pennsylvania is expected to save approximately $300 million as a result of a bipartisan effort to pass corrections reform legislation. The final component of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) redirects and increases funding for non-violent offender programs while reducing spending on and the number of inmates in state prisons.
The reinvestment portion of the reform was unanimously passed in the Senate and House in the last days of the 2012 session. The first half of the JRI was passed in July 2012. Both have been signed by the governor.
Senate Minority Leader, Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said the legislation is fundamental in saving taxpayers money. “It starts with correction reform, and the savings from correction reform are then taken, part of those savings are taken and being driven back into the community both on the front end in crime prevention programs, but also in various stages of the process where a person is incarcerated,” Costa said.
In addition, it will halt the increase Pennsylvania’s spending, which has risen from $185 million to $1.8 billion since 1985.
Costa said about $90 million of the savings will be designated for communities throughout the state. “They would be able to provide resources to programs that are effective in helping folks reenter back into the community, making sure that what I can ‘aftercare’ is there for folks who are integrating back into the community in terms of employment, generating and developing employment skills, all those types of things,” Costa said.
Moving forward, Costa said the state has to continue to monitor the success of the programs. “We need to monitor and makes sure that those dollars that we spend are in fact keeping people out of the system. Folks that may have interaction with the court system or interaction with police for example, are police programs that we are investing in effective in getting people in the right place?” he said.
The JRI is a companion to Act 122 of 2012, which supports initiatives such as increased use of treatment efforts and programming for release of non-violent offenders, and alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders serving short-term.