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​Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Pennsylvania Officials Announce Release of Criminal Justice Report and Recommendations
Policies Would Increase Public Safety, Support Victims of Crime, and Reduce Costs
June 26, 2017 -- Today the Pennsylvania Justice Reinvestment Working Group released a comprehensive report that details how the state can increase public safety by strengthening probation supervision, improving access to substance use treatment programs and expanding available responses for parole violations, while reducing its prison population by more than 1,000 people. These changes will help Pennsylvania avoid spending an additional $108 million in corrections costs over the next five years. The full report can be found here.
“I applaud the working group for its focus and dedication in putting together this thorough and bipartisan report,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “I am eager for the legislation to be introduced so that these recommendations can be implemented to achieve cost savings and increase public safety while supporting our corrections and parole staff and county probation programs.”
The report contains a series of policies developed by Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group over the past year and a half and is supported by data analysis provided by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.
“The policies presented in this report will improve public safety, provide budget relief, and make Pennsylvania spend more effectively and efficiently on criminal justice,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who chaired the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, said. “As leaders on the working group and public servants, our goals are to maximize resources and protect citizens from crime. These policies, which save the commonwealth about $100 million over the next five years, will help us be both tough and smart on crime.”
In order to maximize the opportunity to increase public safety, Pennsylvania needs to increase its support and funding for county probation departments to help improve supervision and reduce the number of people who are incarcerated for supervision violations.
“We have a great opportunity in front of us to take action that will directly improve the ability of our county probation departments to keep our communities safe while at the same time providing some relief to our strained general fund,” Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. “Far too many of the people entering our prisons and jails have been there before. We need to take steps to stop this trend before it puts even more pressure on our local law enforcement officials.”
The report calls for the formation of a new state-level committee to help counties create standards to improve probation practices and determine the best way to maximize the use of state funding for probation. According to the report, funding should be determined in part by the number of people on probation and the resources needed for effective supervision, instead of the outdated and flawed formula in current law.
“Pennsylvania needs to fix the way we provide funding for probation if we want to decrease the flow of people reentering our prisons and jails,” County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Deputy Director Brinda Carroll Penyak said. “Our county probation chiefs, who have the best shot at reducing recidivism, shouldn’t be left trying to supervise people with such limited resources.”
The report calls for streamlining the admission process for the state drug treatment program so more people can take advantage of this rehabilitation program.
“Judges don’t want to keep sentencing the same people over and over again. And we must have more confidence in the amount of treatment and supervision someone will receive if we are to rely less on expensive sentences to prison,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marisco said. “If we are going to truly rehabilitate the people who enter our criminal justice system, we need to provide the opportunities they need to help them turn their lives around.”
In March 2016, the working group began reviewing analyses provided by the CSG Justice Center as part of the data-driven justice reinvestment approach used to address the state’s rising corrections costs, inefficient sentencing practices and lack of state support for county probation.
The report recommends that a portion of the averted costs be invested in the state’s Victim’s Compensation Assistance Program.
“This report promotes a comprehensive approach toward making our communities safer and supporting those who have been impacted by crime,” said Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm. “The reinvestment funds will go a long way toward helping make victims of crime whole again and ensuring that those who are released from prison and jail are receiving effective supervision.”
From 2006 to 2015, Pennsylvania’s annual corrections costs increased 50 percent, from $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion.
“Rising corrections costs are going to put serious strain on an already tight budget if action is not taken,” said Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Chairman Charles Ramsey. “We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us to enact policies that save money and reinvest a portion of those savings in practices that make communities safer.”
The majority of the averted costs and reduction in the prison population will be achieved by eliminating the practice of incarcerating people convicted of low-level offenses in state prison for an average of five months beyond their minimum sentence date. The practice cost the state $73 million in 2014 and does not yield better recidivism rates than placing people on parole at the end of their minimum sentence.
“When it comes to breaking the cycle of recidivism for people who commit low-level crimes, the data shows it is more cost-effective to invest in community-based treatment and supervision than it is to house someone in a cell for a few extra months,” President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper said. “These release delays cost millions while providing minimal, if any, benefits.”
The report details policies that reduce the release delays by requiring people who have committed certain nonviolent low-level crimes to be released from state prison after they complete their minimum sentence and be placed on mandatory parole supervision. In addition to being placed on parole, they will be required to participate in community-based programs designed to reduce recidivism.
The Justice Reinvestment Working Group, with assistance from the CSG Justice Center, sought input from district attorneys, judges, public defenders, law enforcement officials, probation and parole officers, victims and their advocates and local officials to help inform their analysis of the state’s criminal justice system.
The justice reinvestment process launched in February 2016 after leaders from all three branches of government officially requested intensive technical assistance from the CSG Justice Center with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Twenty-six states have employed a justice reinvestment approach with the CSG Justice Center to date, including Idaho, North Carolina and West Virginia.
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Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group Unanimously Approves Final Recommendations
Will Save $108 million, create safer communities, support crime victims
Harrisburg, PA (Dec. 19, 2016) — Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) Working Group unanimously approved their final recommendations on criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania. The implementation of these reforms would result in a savings of $108 million, make our communities safer and protect the rights of victims. 
“Today was the culmination of a yearlong, bipartisan effort to examine the data behind Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system, and use that data to develop new and innovative ways to save money, increase public safety and protect the interests of victims,” said Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) Chairman Josh Shapiro. “I am proud of the work that the JRI Working Group has accomplished and that this was done in a bipartisan manner.”
In September 2015, Governor Tom Wolf reached out to the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pew Charitable Trusts to request technical assistance in undergoing a second phase of JRI in Pennsylvania. Upon their agreement to provide this assistance, Governor Wolf appointed PCCD Chairman Shapiro to chair a working group to lead this effort. With the assistance of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, this working group has agreed on six recommendations for criminal justice system improvements for Pennsylvania.
1.    Support public safety for victims by serving more people, more effectively.
2.    Improve pretrial decision making to increase public safety and decrease county prison costs.
3.    Revise polices to guide sentencing decisions to reduce recidivism.
4.    Increase the use of effective probation interventions to lower recidivism.
5.    Make short prison sentences more predictable and less expansive.
6.    Improve recidivism results for parolees by targeting resources and responses.
A detailed report from the working group will be available early next year along with drafts of legislation to implement these changes.
“We believe these recommendations could affect real, positive change in the criminal justice system,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “We look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to codify these improvements to Pennsylvania's criminal justice system, improving public safety and reducing costs.” 
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This presentation is from September 14, 2016
This presentation is from July 20, 2016

This presentation is from May 18, 2016
Current JRI in Pennsylvania (2016)
Pennsylvania has achieved measurable reductions and savings through our initial participation in JRI, but more can and should be done to reduce crime, reduce victims, and avert further growth of our state and county prison populations.  Recognizing this, leaders of PCCD, the Governor’s Office, the General Assembly, the Judiciary, the PA Department of Corrections (DOC), the PA Probation and Parole (PBPP) and other key stakeholders from our Commonwealth formally requested assistance in late 2015 from PEW and CSG to participate in a Phase II JRI process.
Although Pennsylvania celebrates the positive impacts from our JRI efforts, we recognize that more must be done to bring our state in line with others in our region and across the country. For instance, in 2013, Pennsylvania had the highest incarceration rate in the Northeast, with 391 adults in prison per 100,000 residents. Between 2004 and 2013, the Commonwealth’s prison population grew 22 percent, a trend that stands in contrast to neighboring states New York and Jersey, whose prison populations dropped 16 percent each over the same period, all while their reported index crime continued to fall. Over this period, the prison population for all states increased 6 percent, almost one-quarter the increase seen in Pennsylvania.
In addition, as the Commonwealth’s prison population has climbed, costs have increased to accommodate the growth. Pennsylvania taxpayers are left to bear the cost of funding our corrections system. Between FY 2005 and FY 2014, state spending on corrections increased 44 percent, from $1.5 to $2.2 billion. Unless Pennsylvania adopts a change in direction on criminal justice policy, these costs will continue to escalate.
We believe that the key to achieving such impacts is addressing pressures on the front end of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. The impact of Pennsylvania’s previous JRI approach primarily was felt on the back end, in corrections and parole. For the state to make gains in cutting costs, bending the curve downward on incarcerated populations, and reducing recidivism, Pennsylvania must address and reform the cost drivers rooted in the front end of the system. Determining these drivers will require intensive analysis of data from all parts of our system: crime and arrest, diversion sentencing, county probation and parole, programs and treatment to lower recidivism, jail, prison, parole, and parole supervision.
In order to guide the JRI process, a new Justice Reinvestment Working Group has been convened, and includes representatives from the Governor’s Office; agency heads from DOC, PBPP, PCS and PCCD; representatives from the Judiciary; adult probation and parole; the District Attorneys Association; and the Majority and Minority Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee.  This bi-partisan and multi-agency working group is partnering with CSG Justice Center staff to analyze Pennsylvania’s criminal justice data, develop strategies and solutions based on that data, with an overarching goal of developing and implementing policies and programs (e.g., pre-trial diversion and treatment) that will continue to avert the growth of the Commonwealth’s prison population while ensuring that public safety is not compromised.  We will seek to invest in evidence-based programs and innovative practices proven to reduce recidivism rates in the long-run.
Pennsylvania Leaders Host Second Meeting of Justice Reinvestment Initiative
Harrisburg, PA (March 18, 2016) – Today, Pennsylvania officials took part in the second meeting of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) Working Group. This is another step in an extensive review of the state’s criminal justice system. The goal of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative is to enhance public safety by reducing corrections spending and reinvesting those savings in proven public safety strategies.
“I am proud of the bi-partisan work being done to reach across jurisdictions and ideology to find common ground on reforms to our criminal justice system that will save money, increase public safety and bring more fairness,” Governor Wolf said. “Working together, I truly believe we can make positive changes that will have long lasting impacts on Pennsylvania and taxpayers’ faith and trust that our system is fair, efficient and effective.”
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is assisting the state in its justice reinvestment approach. Today, CSG provided an overview of data that they have been able to gather concerning Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. With the help of various state agencies, CSG has been able to review and analyze data related to court filings, sentencing, prison populations, and parole. A comprehensive picture of the criminal justice system is taking shape via this data which will allow the JRI Working Group to make policy recommendations that will improve our criminal justice system by targeting resources to areas of the system that will have the greatest impact on reducing crime and victimization.
Today’s meeting demonstrated several areas where changes in policy could have a significant impact on overall crime and expenditures. Some of these included: 
  • Despite a drop in crimes and arrests the number of judicial proceedings in Pennsylvania has climbed by 13%
  • Property and drug offenses make up the majority of sentencing in Pennsylvania
  • Recidivism rates are not calculated and reported for 75% of Pennsylvania’s supervised and incarcerated population.
  • The growing volume of split sentences is adding significant supervision time on top of parole periods.
  • County Intermediate Punishment is commonly used for DUI offenses but rarely for property and drug sentences and is underfunded compared to similar states.
“What the JRI process is revealing is a true picture of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system,” said Josh Shapiro, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and chair of the working group. “With this new comprehensive picture we can begin to evaluate what policy recommendations will reduce crime, make communities safer, and ease the burden on taxpayers.”
“This work is important and we are working together to find the issues that we can tackle to fundamentally change our criminal justice system for the better,” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and board member of the CSG Justice Center. “I have faith that this process will curb costs while recalibrating our system so that resources are directed at strategies that can lower crime and recidivism rates.”
Throughout the year, the working group will guide the CSG Justice Center’s analysis of state and local criminal justice system data in order to develop policy options for consideration in the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.
The CSG Justice Center has helped 24 other states—including West Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio—apply the justice reinvestment approach. The initiative is made possible through funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.  
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(Click on the presentation to view it)
Governor Wolf Statement on First Meeting of Justice Reinvestment Initiative Working Group
Harrisburg, PA – (March 9, 2016) -- Governor Tom Wolf released the following statement on the first meeting of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) Working Group:
“Today’s first Working Group meeting illustrates the depth and breadth of the problems facing our criminal justice system and the incredible opportunity we have to save money, improve public safety and promote fairness with this phase of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in Pennsylvania. The working group is made up of a diverse and robust representation of the stakeholders in our criminal justice system from arrest, trial, sentencing, incarceration, and post-release.
“The front-end focus of this phase of JRI will require significant work to find common ground but today’s meeting proves that we are all committed to finding ways to reform our criminal justice system based on research and focused on outcomes that improve public safety. I look forward to the work that will be done with our partners at the Council of State Governments over the next year and working in a bi-partisan, data-driven way to make real criminal justice reform a reality.”
In February, Governor Tom Wolf, leaders of the General Assembly and criminal justice stakeholders announced the formation of the JRI Working Group. Today’s meeting was led by Chair of the JRI Working Group and Chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Josh Shapiro and Vice Chair and Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, along with representatives from the Council of State Government. JRI work is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the United States Department of Justice.
You can find a copy of the presentation of data compiled by the Council of State Governments here.
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Pennsylvania Leaders Launch Public Safety Initiative to Tackle Drivers of Cost, Incarceration, and Recidivism 
Harrisburg, PA – (Feb. 18, 2016) -- Governor Tom Wolf and leaders from both political parties and all three branches of government today launched an extensive review of the state’s criminal justice system as part of a new Justice Reinvestment Initiative designed to reduce ineffective corrections spending and invest those savings in proven public safety strategies.
“A broken criminal justice system is a failure to deliver on the promise of a fair and just society, and we must all work together to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in rehabilitation and not incarceration,” Governor Wolf said. “While much progress has been made, there is more we can do and today is the beginning of an important process to look at how we can improve our criminal justice system from sentencing guidelines to our bail system. Working together, we can make many significant changes that will make our system fairer, improve public safety and save millions of dollars.”
Pennsylvania currently has the highest incarceration rate among all states in the Northeast, despite reducing its prison population in recent years. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization assisting the state in its justice reinvestment approach, today released an overview of the state’s criminal justice system. Preliminary findings include: 
·   Pennsylvania is one of only four states in the nation where corrections spending exceeds expenditures on higher education;
·   Between 2004 and 2014, corrections expenditures increased by 40 percent, from $1.5 billion to $2.2 billion.
·   Over the same period, the state’s incarceration rate increased by 20 percent. Conversely, New York and New Jersey saw their incarceration rates drop by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
·   The Department of Corrections has requested $2.3 billion in state funds for the 2015–2016 budget, a 7-percent increase over the prior year.
“When legislators from both sides of the aisle work together to tackle these tough issues, we create genuine results,” House Speaker Mike Turzai said. “We proved that with a justice reinvestment approach we took in 2012. That bipartisan spirit must be invoked again in order to build on the positive outcomes that we are seeing to create a safer and more cost effective system.”
Indeed, the justice reinvestment approach has already proven to be effective in Pennsylvania. After the state’s prison population increased by 28 percent (from 40,090 to 51,184 people) between 2002 and 2012, a Justice Reinvestment Initiative conducted by the state in 2012 helped spur a decline in the population to 49,914 people by the end of 2015. These changes generated almost $13 million in savings, close to $4 million of which was reinvested in areas to enhance public safety, such as victims’ services, effective policing procedures, strengthening probation, and local reentry strategies.
“Pennsylvania has certainly made significant headway over the last few years with strong improvements to our criminal justice system,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said.  “It is vital that we continue to work towards increasing efficiencies and reducing the costs of our corrections system.  We need to reduce recidivism to benefit our communities and help ensure that taxpayer dollars that are being sent to Harrisburg are being used productively.”
Despite the impacts from the 2012 reforms, other drivers of incarceration and costs at the state and local levels remain unaddressed. Therefore, the latest justice reinvestment effort will focus on the front end of the system, including sentencing and pretrial policies.
“Our prisons were taking on increases of 1,500 inmates each year. In turn, our taxpayers were taking on enormous costs. The 2012 corrections and parole reforms halted a lot of that,” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and board member of the CSG Justice Center. “But Pennsylvanians aren’t satisfied with simply treading water. They are counting on this process to curb costs while recalibrating our system so that resources are directed at strategies that can lower crime and recidivism rates.”
To support the state’s new initiative, Gov. Wolf today also established a bipartisan working group of 35 representatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of state and local government, as well as other criminal justice stakeholders.
“I am honored to lead this bipartisan panel of experts as we work together to reform our criminal justice system in ways that make our communities safer, enrich the lives of those involved in the system and protect the interests of taxpayers,” said Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and chair of the working group. “Working together we will develop a comprehensive policy package that will strengthen our Commonwealth.” 
Throughout the year, the working group will guide the CSG Justice Center’s analysis of state and local criminal justice system data in order to develop policy options for introduction in the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.
Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor, who has joined the Governor and Legislative Leaders in supporting the process, noted: “Justice reinvestment provides a clear opportunity to do a thoughtful analysis of our criminal justice challenges. Judges, who are carrying out innovative practices in courtrooms across the commonwealth, have valuable perspectives that will help the working group identify practical policy alternatives.”
The new initiative also received bi-partisan and bi-cameral support from all four chairs of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committees.
"The first wave of criminal justice reforms have finally started to drive down Pennsylvania's inmate population and costs and have provided a means of investing in successful strategies to further drive down incarceration; however, this was just the beginning," said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf. "We have broken the barriers to rethinking corrections policies on all fronts from rehabilitating non-violent drug offenders, to addressing mandatory minimum sentences, and expunging minor criminal records.  I look forward to working with our partners on this latest justice reinvestment initiative to find more reforms and strategies to further reduce Pennsylvania's inmate population and corrections spending." 
"Working together to find effective and efficient ways to improve public safety is a fundamental responsibility of state government," Rep. Ron Marsico said.
"JRI has helped us reduce our prison population and costs,” Sen. Daylin Leach said. “It should be refined and continued, but it's also time to consider whether spending tax dollars on lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent offenders make us any safer."
"In this first year serving as Judiciary Chairman, I have already seen the stark differences in outcomes across populations, counties, and offenses.,” Rep. Joseph Petrarca. “It is clear that we need to do more to control costs, protect the public, and improve outcomes for families"
The CSG Justice Center has helped 24 other states—including West Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio—apply the justice reinvestment approach. The initiative is made possible through funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
 READ THE GOVERNOR'S BLOG:  A Huge Week for Criminal Justice Reform in PA