Auditor General Eugene DePasquale applauded Gov. Tom Wolf for announcing the launch of REFORM Alliance, which is a group that will work to advance criminal just reform nationwide on January 23.
“Reforming our criminal justice system can produce huge savings to taxpayers and, most importantly, create a more fair and equitable approach to enforcing the law,” DePasquale said. “The ‘lock-‘em-all-up’ mentality of the 1990s has not worked as intended and it’s time to adopt a smarter approach.”
DePasquale announced last week that he would develop a special report exploring the potential benefits of criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania.
“Building on its recently enacted Clean Slate law, Pennsylvania should continue to work to make our justice system more effective and fair,” DePasquale said. “Not only is it the right thing to do from a fiscal standpoint, it’s also the socially responsible way forward.”
In 2015 State prison costs totaled $2.4 billion, which is up from the $1.6 billion in 2006. DePasquale said that he would examine whether sentencing non-violent offenders to prison is driving extra cost to taxpayers.
“Prison time should be reserved for serious offenders and those who pose a threat to public safety,” DePasquale added. “In the interest of fairness, we have to make sure the punishment fits the crime.”
Other issues that DePasquale plans to explore in his special report are:
- The societal impact of high incarceration rates, especially for nonviolent offenders.
- The availability of legal counsel for all defendants.
- Whether reforms are need for the Board of Pardons or its processes.
- The role that cash bail plays in keeping people incarcerated unnecessarily before trial.
- Whether the state’s civil asset forfeiture process should be reformed or replaced.
- Whether it is prudent to hold inmates past the end of their minimum sentences.
This report is expected to be done in the fall.