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Governor Wolf Signs Bills to Cut Incarceration Costs, Reduce Prison Populations

Governor Tom Wolf recently signed two bills into law aimed at reducing costs of incarcerating prisoners, putting the money saved into probation offices in counties across the state.

The bills are being referred to as Justice Reinvestment Initiative 2. They are expected to cut prison populations by about 600 inmates over five years, which will save taxpayers approximately $48 million total in incarceration and corrections costs. Wolf also said the legislation would “reduce bureaucracy” beyond its savings of both time and money. The idea is to reinvest the money into different criminal justice initiatives that “reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and better serve victims of crime.”

Background of the new legislation

According to Wolf, the legislation has been a work in progress since 2017, when lawmakers worked alongside advocacy groups to put together the Justice Reinvestment package. The legislation had bipartisan support when it passed in the state Senate in June. However, Democrats took issue with a late amendment made by the House Judiciary Committee, which introduced some mandatory minimum sentences for criminals convicted of crimes against children. This resulted in some opposition to that bill, which had been intended to change state sentencing guidelines to make it easier for offenders to participate in drug treatment programs rather than going to prison.

Ultimately, though, the version of the legislation that passed will result in some significant savings to the state, allowing Pennsylvania to put some money back into its county probation offices that have become overburdened and underserved. Those probation offices oversee about 86 percent of all of the state’s probation cases.

For more information about how changes to criminal law could affect your case, contact experienced Reading, PA criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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