Report advises more state oversight of Pa. justice system

    Philadelphia's House of Correction was built in 1927.  (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Philadelphia's House of Correction was built in 1927. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    An organization tasked with making Pennsylvania’s justice system more effective has released its fifth and final advisory report.

    It suggests the system will work better — and the state will save money — if the commonwealth increases statewide oversight of the process.

    Crime and arrests are decreasing in Pennsylvania overall, but the state still has the highest incarceration rate in the region. The system is very heavily county-based, with not much standardization or funding from state government.

    Carl Reynolds, the senior legal and policy adviser for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, said the wide variations in practice across the state ultimately make the system costlier and less effective.

    “The vast majority of people in the system end up in the local level, mostly on probation,” he said. “Caseloads are high, state resources are thin … the state really should put more money into county-level interventions.”

    Among the specific recommendations, Reynolds said the state should cut out red tape, which often elongates short prison sentences and costs taxpayers’ money, and standardize county probation programs.

    The report now goes to the legislature.

    House Majority Leader Dave Reed has said lawmakers are committed to reviewing it with an open mind.

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