Wednesday, December 26, 2012
In Donald Gilliland's Dec. 12 article, Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel assured the public that "we're headed in the right direction" when it comes to reducing the state's massive prison population.
It's hard to imagine how that could be the case, given that Gov. Tom Corbett is laying the foundations for two new prisons in Montgomery County, housing 4,100 prisoners and costing $400 million.
While Wetzel claims the new prisons will replace the 83-year-old SCI Graterford facility, there's no guarantee of that. Graterford could easily be reopened to relieve overcrowding, just as SCI Pittsburgh was two short years after being "mothballed" in 2005.
Corbett's "justice reinvestment" reforms make modest changes in alternative sentencing and parole policy. But how far will these reforms go in reversing the 525 percent rise in imprisonment since 1980? Corbett's prison construction plans speak louder than words.
Even if SCI Graterford were to be closed, the new construction would still add 800 beds to the state's system.
And without meaningful sentencing reform (such as eliminating mandatory minimums and establishing parole eligibility for lifers), DOC will be filling every one of those beds and then some. Pennsylvania needs real reform — not new prisons.