Members of the House Judiciary Committee are wrapping up a three-day tour of Pennsylvania prisons.
Representative Ronald Waters says he and his colleagues are speaking with wardens, district attorneys, prison guards and inmates to better understand what the state could do to reduce overcrowding and lower the $2 billion Department of Corrections budget.
Waters says Pennsylvania is also planning to build “up to four” more prisons at a cost of $200 million apiece.
“They hold about 2,000 inmates, so that’s a capital investment of about $100,000 per person just to build these things,” says Waters.
Waters says other states have reduced their prisoner counts with no detriment to public safety. He says in Michigan, good policy has reduced the prison population so much that Pennsylvania has sent thousands of its inmates there until the new prisons can be built.
The House is reviewing several Senate bills that would reduce the prison population by easing parole violation sanctions, using alternative sentencing, and reducing the minimum incarceration time before a prisoner can be sent to a prerelease center.
Waters says the tour will help identify “best practice” for Pennsylvania prison policy.