Curbing prison costs, violence and drug addiction helps cut Pa. recidivism rate

    Fewer Pennsylvania residents are cycling in and out of prison, according to a national report.

    The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonprofit policy organization, found that the state’s three-year recidivism rate fell from about 44 percent in 2007 to 41 percent last year.

    “When you translate that into raw numbers, you’re talking … more than 500 fewer people going back to prison,” said Michael Thompson, the nonprofit’s director. “That’s halfway to building a new prison, which as the Secretary of Prisons will tell you, costs about $60 million.”

    At a presentation at the U.S. Capitol, Gov. Tom Corbett attributed the success to the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a data-driven strategy to reduce prison costs and recidivism.

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    “I believe as the years ago by,” he said, “our justice reinvestment will continue to help reduce our prison population, allowing our state to invest more money in education and many other areas.”

    According to the Council of State Governments Justice Center, Pennsylvania officials also credited violence-prevention and drug-treatment programs in the prison system, as well as a new mandate that the state’s halfway house operators limit recidivism rates. The operators risk having their government contracts revoked if they do not meet the requirement.

    The nonprofit highlighted seven additional states that have reduced their recidivism rates. Some of those states are doing much better than Pennsylvania. Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, for instance, all have recidivism rates under 30 percent.

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