New Pew Report: "High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms"

on Monday - July 16, 2012.

A new report by the Pew Center on the States reports that prison sentences have lengthened dramatically in the past 20 years, costing states millions of additional dollars. Yet, the report says, "For a substantial number of offenders, there is little or no evidence that keeping them locked up longer prevents additional crime."

According to the Pew research, in Pennsylvania, "The average offender released in 2009 served 32% more than the average offender released in 1990" at a total added cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers of $316.6 Million. Length of time served by PA's violent offenders grew 44% between 1990 - 2009, and length of time served by PA inmates charged with drug offenses also grew 44% in that same time period. As of 2009, Pennsylvania also had the second longest average length of time served in the US.

Click here for the full Pew report.

Click here for the PA Prison Time Served State Factsheet.

PA Prison Reform Bill Signed by Gov. Corbett

on Monday - July 09, 2012.

Last week, Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 100 into law. The new law puts into place some, but not all, of the recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a bipartisan panel of judges, lawmakers, state cabinet members and other officials that has been studying ways to increase public safety in Pennsylvania and reduce spending on corrections.  

Provisions of the new law include:

* diversion of nonviolent offenders with substance abuse issues to local treatment programs instead of sending them to state prisons

* elimination of the pre-release program for state prison inmates (the pre-release program allowed inmates with good disciplinary records to be moved to halfway houses prior to their parole)

* diversion of illegal immigrants who commit nonviolent crimes to immigration authorities rather than sending them to state prisons

Key recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment working group were not included in the new legislation, including a process for returning some of the savings realized from the other changes to local jurisdictions, though legislators may revisit this when the legislative sessions resumes this fall.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

May 23, 2012 presentation on the recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group 

Harrisburg Patriot News article about the new law 

June 7, 2012 WITF Radio SmartTalk interview with members of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group

RMO Success Story: Living Proof

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - June 28, 2012.

At 6'2", with broad shoulders, and a deep bass voice (think "James Earl Jones" and go down a notch), Zach might not look like a man who'd recite poetry. But reciting, reading, and writing poetry are some of his favorite activities.

He recites a line from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet:

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

Zach should know. He's experienced enough sorrow in his 50 years for several lifetimes. "I was physically abused as a child. I got to a point where I got used to it. I didn't cry any more, but it developed a hatred and anger within me," Zach says. When Zach was eleven, his mother died, and he was moved, first to Philadelphia then to New York, where he lived among drug dealers and gangs. Zach was shot four times, but survived each shooting. "It was a violent upbringing," he says. Eventually, it was a path that led to prison over two decades ago, when Zach was a young man . . .

RMO Success Story: Seeing the Light

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Tuesday - June 26, 2012.

Ricky* sees light at the end of the tunnel, and for the first time in nearly a decade, he's able to say, "I feel blessed, like this is right where God wants me to be." Ricky's "tunnel" has been a long, dark journey through bi-polar disorder, PTSD, and obesity, to cocaine addiction, homelessness, and prison. He's quick to add that his life wasn't always this way.

"My father was a minister and my mother was an English teacher. Everyone else in my family has been very successful. They all have college degrees. I went to a private Christian school, and I grew up in the church."

But Ricky also grew up with learning disabilities and some then-undiagnosed mental health issues. Compounding that, he says, "I was a really obese child. All of that put together was tough." Then, when Ricky was fifteen, his father died. "That threw me for a big loop," he says quietly. Ricky got into drugs. "Cocaine became my miracle weight-loss drug. My mental disorders and the drugs were a terrible combination." . . .