Saturday, March 7, 2015

PA Sec. Wetzel: 'Significant improvements' combining corrections and parole

"We see this as an opportunity to reset corrections in Pennsylvania"

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has proposed consolidating the Department of Corrections with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole as part of his 2015-2016 budget proposal, reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, who has served since 2011, said the consolidation plans provide an opening to make significant improvements to the Department of Corrections.
"We see this as an opportunity to reset corrections in Pennsylvania and put a system together that makes sense," Wetzel said. "[This consolidation] has been discussed, probably for decades."
At least 40 states already have its parole boards as a part of its departments of corrections. Consolidating the two entities is the "logical next step," he said.
"This is not groundbreaking, [but] it's going to feel like groundbreaking for Pennsylvania," Wetzel said. "Most states do it this way. It's not an idea that we're testing to see if it's effective."
"When you talk about efficiency, it's really going through a process and looking at every function that we do," Wetzel said.
The parole board is responsible for rehabilitating and supervising people on probation or parole and helping them to reintegrate within society. If the board were to be consolidated, it would maintain independent parole responsibility, Wetzel said.
"Their decision-making on releases still [would] remain an independent parole board structure," Wetzel said. "The way it is today... There would be no influence when they decide who is appropriate to get and who is not."
Wetzel said he is excited at the prospect of being able to transform how the corrections system works in the state.
"This is not just putting two agencies together and having two separate functioning agencies under one person," Wetzel said. "This is taking two separate agencies, restructuring both of them in a manner that you get one cohesive, well-functioning agency at the backend."
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