Sunday, February 16, 2014

'Republicans and Democrats have both taken turns screwing up the system'

Despite Justice Reinvestment Initiative Prison Population on the Rise
In his official remarks to the House Appropriations Committee, Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel wrote: "It's a fact if, as an administration, we had embraced business as usual, the DOC population would have continued following its previous trajectory, experiencing the originally anticipated growth of 3,562 inmates - rather than the 328 we saw over the last three years."
In other words: the budget could be more than $113 million higher than what it already is. It costs approximately $35,000 per year to incarcerate each state prison inmate," reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
The corrections budget is projected at more than $2 billion next year, despite recent "justice reinvestment" legislation to save money by reducing prison populations, especially for low-level non-violent offenders.
Corrections policy, Wetzel said, should have two goals: the response should be equal to the crime and the response should yield results; in other words, the offender should be less likely to commit another crime when he exits the criminal justice system.
"You can't say that about some of our current laws and corrections policies,"said Wetzel.
He said, "No less than 23 bills have passed the House, every one of which has the potential to increase prison populations," but legislators have done little to counteract the effect of those legislative efforts through legislation aimed at reducing crime and prolonged incarceration.
"You pass these bills," Wetzel said; "don't be surprised when the budget goes up."
Afterward Wetzel told reporters if that was the first time legislators got the message they haven't been paying attention.
Every year, Wetzel said, he comes to the Capitol and explains corrections policy during the budget hearings, "and then they forget about it until the next year when they want to scold me about the budget."
It's not a right wing or left wing thing, he said, "Republicans and Democrats have both taken turns screwing up the system."

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