During the last three decades, the Commonwealth's prison population exploded by 500 percent to 51,000. Consequently, more Pennsylvanians live behind bars than reside in Harrisburg or Altoona. One in 200 adults is locked up, a number that makes no one happy.
Gov. Tom Corbett has once again proposed a budget to keep Pennsylvania on the path of unchecked prison growth and underinvestment in education and social services.
His proposed 2013-2014 budget does little to restore the $1 billion cut from education and millions more cut from social services during his tenure. Yet under Corbett's plan, the Department of Corrections would receive about $68 million in increased operating funds and $166 million for capital projects.
Anger over “broken priorities” as the governor announces proposed budget
For Immediate Release: February 6, 2013
Harrisburg, PA: People from community groups across the state are responding with frustration to Governor Corbett’s budget address, calling the proposed budget a prime example of the Governor’s “broken priorities,” which have continued to increase spending on prisons while underfunding basic education and community resources.
Philadelphia, PA: Hundreds are expected to protest outside the Academy of Natural Sciences on Thursday, January 31, while Governor Corbett speaks with the Chamber of Commerce inside.The rally will highlight Governor Corbett’s failed policies, demanding that he cancel his $685 million prison expansion plan and fully fund public education and social services.
For the past year, a hugely expensive new state prison has sat empty in Centre County. Despite calls to cancel the $200 million construction when he took office, Gov. Tom Corbett stubbornly moved forward with the unnecessary 2,000-bed prison project, along with construction of two more prisons, each costing another $200 million, in Montgomery County. As has long been the pattern with prison construction in Pennsylvania, the state decided to build first and ask questions later.
Pennsylvania's Corrections Secretary John Wetzelis trumpeting $35 million in annual savings to be achieved via the closures of two state prisons, SCI Cresson and SCI Greensburg, announced this week. But critics of the state's prison complex, which has seen its population quintuple in the past 30 years or so, are questioning the savings, especially as the state continues construction on two new prisons in Montgomery County, at a total cost of $400 million. The closures of Cresson and Greenburg, which together house about 2,400 inmates, are offset by the opening of a new, 2,000-bed, $200 million institution called SCI Benner, while the two new Montgomery County prisons will theoretically replace SCI Graterford.
Philadelphia, PA – Caving to public pressure to curb the growth of Pennsylvania’s bloated prison system, Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced on Wednesday that the DOC will be shuttering two old state prisons and transferring prisoners to a new 2,000-bed facility in Benner Township this year. Secretary Wetzel claims that the closing of SCI Cresson and SCI Greensburg is part of an effort to shut down old prisons and replace them with new “state-of-the-art facilities” at a projected savings of $35 million per year. Organizers from the Philadelphia-based grassroots campaign Decarcerate PA, however, are pointing to the $200 million price tag of the new facility, and calling for real sentencing reform that will enable the state to shut down old prisons without replacing them with expensive new ones.
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.
WITH Pennsylvania closing classrooms, canceling general assistance, and still facing a budget deficit, I urge the governor to reconsider his plans to expand Pennsylvania's already-massive prison system.
At a recent press conference announcing the passage of HB135 - a component of the Justice Reinvestment legislation aimed at reducing the state's prison population - Gov. Corbett said: "The answer isn't always to build bigger prisons. Sometimes the answer lies in smarter solutions that help us build fewer prisons and better communities."