Gililland writes that the new prisons will save $31.7 million per year in operating costs. But those savings are contingent on the state closing another prison in addition to SCI Graterford. DOC Secretary John Wetzel has said he has no plans to close additional facilities.
Gilliland also suggests that Decarcerate PA should take aim at policymakers. In fact, we have met with legislators from all over the state to urge them to make legislative changes to decrease Pennsylvania’s prison population.
Mass incarceration is a bipartisan problem. We know that the prison expansion was initiated by the Rendell administration, and that Corbett and Wetzel inherited a broken system. That does not change the fact that the Corbett administration has built three new prisons and increased state funding to the DOC by over $250 million, even as the administration claims to want to decrease the prison population.
It does not change the fact that Pennsylvania now invests more in our prison system than in higher education, or that Corbett replaced $172 million in federal stimulus funding to the DOC his first year in office while allowing the loss of education stimulus dollars to deal a devastating blow to school districts across the state.
If the best justification Corbett and Wetzel can make for a $2 billion corrections budget and over 51,000 people in prison is that they are “not as bad" as their predecessors, the system will stay broken.
As long as so many of our fellow Pennsylvanians are locked away in prison cells, we are going to keep pushing the governor, the Corrections secretary, and legislators to do better.
WALEED SHAHID, Decarcerate PA, Philadelphia