Politicians and a criminology professor say the prison system in Pennsylvania must be reformed and the best way to do it is through legislation.
At a press conference held in Oakland on Friday, Auditor General Jack Wagner, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, Al Blumstein, a criminologist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the National Consortium on Violence Research called for legislation to stem the growth of Pennsylvania's prison population, the fastest growing in the nation.
Greenleaf has legislation, Senate Bill 100 is before his committee now. It is a package of alternative sentencing reform which calls for money for treatment and re-entry programs for parolees.
He noted that those who don't care about people should care about the money. Each prisoner costs about 33,000 a year to maintain and the state plans on spending $860 million in the next few years to build four new prisons.
The state's prison population is 53,000 - five times greater than it was 30 years ago. Forty percent of the prisoners are non-violent offenders.
Greenleaf said states such as New York and California have been successful in lowering their prison populations by working to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail.