A state senator says he has a plan to reduce recidivism in Pennsylvania prisons, employ more parolees, and save money in the long run.
Pennsylvania's prison population grew much faster than any other state's from 2007 to 2008. That's according to figures released by the Justice Department this week. The increase in the number of inmates in Pennsylvania rose by 9.1 percent, well ahead of the 4.9 percent of second-place Arizona. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Pennsylvania added 4,178 prisoners....more than any other state.
Overall, the prison population in the U.S. rose by less than 1% and declined in 20 states including Michigan and New York.
For fiscal 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has requested $1.8 billion, an increase of about $200 million. The department spokesman says they need to find other ways to treat or punish those who commit lesser crimes, such as drug and property offenses, saving prison space "for those who are truly violent and who truly need to be separated from society." according to a Corrections Department spokesperson.
Senator Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, says studies have shown that employment is the best way to deter crime and to make sure criminals don't become repeat offenders. He has introduced Senate Bill 650, which would provide tax credit for businesses who hire ex-offenders. The credits would equal to 30% or up to the first $5,000 of the wages paid to the qualified ex-felon in the first year of employment, and 20% in the following year.
"The biggest single determinant whether someone is a recidivist or not is whether they're employed. So, if we get them a job, they're far less likely to go back to a life of crime."
Leach says it's cheaper to offer tax credits than it is to re-incarcerate ex-cons.
The federal government currently offers a tax credit of up to $2,400 for private sector employers who hire job seekers who experience chronic unemployment, including former inmates. The federal tax credit applies to the first year of employment only, and provides a maximum credit of $2,400 per new hire. California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas offer additional income tax credits for employers who hire ex-offenders.