Senate Democratic Initiatives Part of Legislation

HARRISBURG, October 15, 2012 – – Senate Democrats today said that passage of the new corrections initiative referred to as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) is solid policy that will protect citizens and save taxpayer dollars.

Senate Democrats maintain that the legislation includes many of ideas championed by their caucus over the years.

Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said that Senate Democrats have always made corrections reform a top priority. He added that it is important to be tough, yet smart, on both crime and corrections policy.

“Reducing spending on corrections and redirecting funds to programs for non-violent offenders is not only a fundamental step to reducing the number of inmates, but it will also go a long way toward rehabilitation and reducing recidivism which saves taxpayer dollars,” Sen. Costa said.

The JRI is a companion to Act 122 of 2012, which includes several corrections reform initiatives, including provisions to help reduce the prison population without risking the safety of the public, alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders and reentry and reintegration programs.

Act 122 of 2012 is expected to yield up to $300 million in savings for Pennsylvania.

The JRI would use $86 million to directly support many of the initiatives that Senate Democrats have pushed for years. These programs include increased programming for release for non-violent offenders, expediting programming for short-time non-violent offenders and aggressively utilizing alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders and the increased use of treatment programs.

Democratic Appropriations Chair, state Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila. /Montgomery) stated that the initiative will clamp down on spiraling corrections spending in Pennsylvania, which has exploded in the past three decades, from $185 million in 1985 to $1.8 billion this year.

“It is past time that we address the ballooning costs of corrections in Pennsylvania,” Hughes said. “Reducing the enormous cost of corrections and unburdening our overcrowded prison system is a major component of Senate Democratic budget priorities.”

“With corrections receiving the fourth largest appropriation in the state budget, I am pleased that solid initiatives like this legislation and other corrections reforms will keep prison costs in check and keep the public safe.”

The Justice Reinvestment Fund (JRF) is intended to support programs and activities to improve the delivery of criminal justice services within Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, a longtime proponent of prison reform and second chance initiatives, is pleased by the bi-partisan effort to reform the corrections system with sensible, equitable initiatives.

“The reinvestment of corrections funding into effective programs to reduce recidivism will put our corrections spending in check, maintain the safety and welfare of Pennsylvania citizens and help non-violent offenders down a new, positive path,” Sen. Kitchen said. “I am pleased that we could all come together to take this great step forward to bring about real change to our prison system.”

Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) who is the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said “funding alternative sentencing initiatives and smarter parole policies is an innovative way to stop the cycle of recidivism.

“If we continue policies that take a reformed approach to corrections, we can effectively reduce corrections spending, maintain public safety and enact smart, cost-effective programs to reduce recidivism.”

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