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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Big changes for PA prisons

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Mar 27, 2013 8:57 AM

Radio Smart Talk for Wednesday, March 27:

jail cell 300 x 170.jpg

After decades of increasing prison populations, the Corbett Administration expects a drop in the number of inmates being housed in state correctional institutions over the next three to five years.  As a result, the Administration announced in January that it was closing prisons in Cresson and Greensburg.  The Administration estimates the closures would save $35 million a year.  That comes on the heels of decisions to scrap plans to build a new prison and not reopen another one. 

There still are 51,000 inmates in the state corrections system which is designed for 48,000.

Increasingly, only the most violent and serious offenders are being sent to state prisons.  Those arrested for non-violent crimes are often being held in non-prison settings.

Meanwhile, halfway houses -- facilities where inmates are typically sent near the end of their sentences  -- have come under intense scrutiny.  A study that is being lauded across the country found that Pennsylvania inmates who spent time at halfway houses were more likely to recidivate -- be arrested or re-incarcerated -- than inmates released directly from prison.

Overall, six in ten inmates recidivate within three years of being released.  For inmates at halfway houses, the recidivism rate was nearly 67%.

Consequently, the Corbett Administration told the private operators of halfway houses they would be paid based on outcomes rather than the number of inmates being held.

Pennsylvania's Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel appears on Wednesday's Radio Smart Talk to explain.

Learn more about the PA prison system on the Department of Correction's website.


Additional findings from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections report on recidivism:

In the report, recidivism is defined three ways:

Rearrest – the first instance of arrest after an inmate is released from state prison.

Reincarceration – the first instance of returning to state prison after an inmate is released from state prison.

Overall Recidivism – the first instance of any type of rearrest or reincarceration after an inmate is released from state prison.

Highlights from the report, which includes statistical information going back to 2000, include:

• Approximately 6 in 10 released inmates recidivate, meaning they are either rearrested or reincarcerated within three years of release from prison.

• Overall recidivism rates have been stable for the last 10 years.

• The statewide three-year rearrest rate was 50 percent for inmates released from state prison in 2008.

• The statewide three-year reincarceration rate was 43 percent for inmates released from state prison in 2008.

• Approximately 10 percent of all police arrests in Pennsylvania involve released state inmates.

• Per capita arrest rates for violent crimes are 14 times higher among released inmates compared to the general public.

• Rearrest rates appear to be higher in urban areas, whereas reincarceration rates appear to be higher in rural areas.

• Individuals most likely to reoffend appear to be property offenders. Individuals least likely to reoffend are those incarcerated for driving under the influence of intoxicants, rape and arson.

• More than half of those who return to prison do so within the first year after release, which is by far the highest risk period for returning to prison.

• Younger offenders are more likely to recidivate than older offenders.

• A released inmate who has 10 or more prior arrests is greater than 6 times more likely to recidivate than a released inmate with no prior arrest history other than the arrest for the current stay in prison.

• Nearly two-thirds of all reincarcerations within three years of release from prison are for technical parole violations. Nearly three-fourths of rearrests within three years of release from prison are for less serious (Part II) offenses.

• The Department of Corrections can save taxpayers $44.7 million annually by reducing the one-year reincarceration rate by 10 percentage points. It also can save $16.5 million annually by reducing recidivist admissions by 10 percentage points.



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