Pa. prison system can handle budget demands, corrections chief says

    The man leading Pennsylvania’s prison system says it can handle Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to hold the line on the agency’s budget for the first time in a decade.

    Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, who says Pennsylvania’s state prisons are enormously inefficient, says the state’s prison system was set up for major, violent offenders.

    But now, one-third of its inmates are short-termers — entering a lengthy processing system, as if they were major offenders.

    As a result, says Wetzel, they end up serving several months longer than their original sentence.

    “Not because we need to do that for public safety, but because our system’s inefficient,” Wetzel said. “That’s inexcusable in these budget times when there is no money, and there’s not going to be an increase in taxes, so the amount of money is finite, until we can grow more jobs.”

    Wetzel says help is on the way — in the form of a federal program aimed to help states change how their prisons work and how they’re funded.

    In that vein, the department is also looking into privatizing health care in prisons.

    Wetzel says any policy recommendations are several weeks away.

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