Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Down Economy, More Inmates Pose Problems for PA

A Franklin County prison warden is poised to take the helm of the state corrections department, pending Senate approval.
John Wetzel says he's looking forward to the challenge of curbing the commonwealth's increasing prison population.
As State Corrections Secretary, Wetzel would oversee operations of all prison facilities and about 52-thousand inmates.
With Governor-elect Tom Corbett's pledge to cut spending and not increase taxes, Wetzel says he'll need to make some tough decisions in order to keep the ever-growing inmate population at bay.

"When we use prison for someone who could be managed in the community or managed at the county level, then we're spending money we don't need to spend. But conversely and one of the key parts of our system, when we put them on too low a level of that continuum, we risk public safety."

Wetzel says moving inmates out of state prison can cut down on costs, but he says public safety also needs to be considered.
"Looking at everyone who's in state prisons. Do they need to be there? Can they be more effectively managed in the community, at the county level or a community corrections setting?"

Wetzel says his work on the county level has prepared him for the role of secretary since he's amassed knowledge from a security and policy standpoint on the front lines.
Like other cabinet appointees, Wetzel will need to be confirmed by the Senate.

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