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Final Piece of Corrections Reform Could Save $50 Million Annually

Fewer non-violent offenders will be heading to state prisons after the passage of Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

 

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday signed the final piece of a major corrections reform package that is estimated to save Pennsylvania $250 million over five years.

The new law — dubbed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative — was passed by the state House and state Senate during the final week of the 2012 session.  It provides funding to a new program created by the state in June that will allow more low-risk inmates to be kept in county jails and to enter alternative treatment programs instead of being sent to state prison.

“These reforms are all part of a philosophy that says justice, in order to work, must be administered with firmness, compassion and common sense,” Corbett said in a statement.

Of the savings generated by keeping those non-violent offenders out of the state prison system, 25 percent will be redirected to counties and local governments to be used for law enforcement, probation, parole and victims’ services.

State Rep. John Sabatina, D-Philadelphia, sponsor of the bill, said the investments in local communities would be “potentially one of the commonwealth’s most valuable assets in reducing and preventing crime.”

This year, the state Department of Corrections did not see an increase in its budget for the first time in more than two decades.  There are more than 50,000 inmates in the state prison system.

“Because of high costs, Corrections spending threatens many other areas of government and cannot simply be cut, but requires policy changes to save money,” said state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill was passed unanimously by both chambers of the General Assembly.

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for breaking news.

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