Saturday, December 15, 2012

PA prison population levels off

Prisons were once one of the fastest growing segments of Pennsylvania's budget, this year — for the first time in a decade — the Department of Corrections budget was level-funded, reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Costs for salaries and benefits continue to rise, so a reduction in population was essentially written into the budget, well before any legislative changes were expected to kick in.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said he could accomplish that through greater bureaucratic efficiency and improved communication with the Board of Probation and Parole.

He seems on track to succeed.

The most recent population numbers — 51,260 inmates — indicate a fairly steady, though modest decline since the new fiscal year started in June.

“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” said Wetzel. “We had a good start to this fiscal year.”

But Wetzel is also careful not to be prematurely triumphant or self-congratulatory.

The former semi-pro offensive lineman said, “We’re five minutes into the first quarter and we’re not losing by 15. ... We have a good start.”

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