Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel is voicing his concerns over the state of corrections in PA, and he certainly doesn’t mince words: “You say you want change, but you keep passing the same bills.”
Speaking to legislators during a recent budget hearing, Wetzel made it clear that he believes the answer to fixing the Commonwealth’s prison system is to address issues beyond the razor wire.
With a corrections budget of a little more than $2 billion for 2015, it is clear that despite justice reinvestment legislation, which focuses on reducing prison populations, particularly for non-violent offenders, the cost of maintaining PA’s prison system continues to swell.
Addressing the Offender Population in a Different Way
Wetzel’s plea to legislature is to change the way we view corrections policy. In short, he said there should be two, clear goals: making the response equal to the crime and ensuring that the response yields results. In short, the end goal should be working to ensure the offender is less likely to commit another crime upon exiting the criminal justice system. Yet, said, Wetzel, “You can’t say that about some of our current laws and corrections policies.”
Hello, is Anyone Listening?
Wetzel went on to furthers say “no less than 23 bills” passed by the House had the potential to increase the population in the State’s prisons and that legislators have done “little” to introduce legislation aimed at reducing crime. As a result, Wetzel said that no one should be surprised when the budget continues to increase.
Wetzel told reporters upon conclusion of the budget hearing that as long as legislators continue to pass bills that result in more people being sent to prison and do not attempt to reduce the number of offenders they send to prison through efforts such as addiction treatment and community re-entry programs, the budget will continue to go nowhere but up.