Thursday, June 10, 2010

Senator Hopes to Reduce Prison Population

The Pennsylvania Senate is reviewing legislation aimed at reducing prison overcrowding Tuesday.

Sponsoring Senator Stewart Greenleaf says if passed, the three bills would save the state $100 million over the next three years.

“We can be tough on crime, but we can also be smart on crime,” says Greenleaf.

Greenleaf says one of the bills would help judges identify offenders unlikely to commit crimes again. The Bucks County Republican says these nonviolent offenders could be placed in underused, alternative sentencing programs like rehab and motivational boot camp, instead of overcrowding state prisons.

The second bill would overturn a regulation requiring inmates to spend nine months in prison before being moved to a prerelease center. Greenleaf says this rule often leads to offenders with short sentences serving much longer than necessary.

The third measure would attempt to stop prison sentences for minor parole violations.

“Each violation would have to be evaluated, whether it’s a high-, medium-, or low-range violation,” says Greenleaf. “Not everybody has to be sent back to jail for two years, at $70,000 for two years, because they missed a meeting.”

Senator Greenleaf says the state is currently building three prisons, at a cost of $200 million apiece. He says in addition, it costs $50-60 million per year to run each facility.

Greenleaf says the three new state prisons under construction will immediately be filled upon their 2013 openings.

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