Treatment, rather than prison, focus of ongoing criminal justice report

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Keeping non-violent offenders out of jail, saving money and lives. Today, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale met with York County leaders to learn lessons that can be used across the state. Pennsylvania has nearly 50,000 state prison inmates. Now, the push is on at the state and county levels to divert non-violent offenders in other directions.

“The amount of money we spend on corrections and not fixing the problem is a major concern,” DePasquale said.

A deeper look inside the numbers is astounding. In the Governor’s 2019/2020 budget proposal, Pennsylvania taxpayers will spend $2.6 billion on the criminal justice system, the third biggest expense behind education and human services.

“We know we have some great financial challenges with the corrections department at the state level,” said Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, (R) York County.

But the money doesn’t stop at the state level. Meeting with law enforcement leaders in York County today, DePasquale promised a full and comprehensive look at the criminal justice system in PA using his home county as an example of positive change.

“Low-risk offenders, we find ways to get them the services and the help that they need so that they do not become long-term, lifelong criminals,” said York County District Attorney Dave Sunday.

Over the past year, York County has begun fully implementing things like family, drug and veterans courts, bringing together numerous services. With counseling and treatment options in the room, these courts keep low-level offenders out of jail, getting them the treatment for addiction or mental health issues they sorely need.

“Anytime, you can reduce the amount of people that go through that and still maintain the appropriate public safety protections, that’s smart financial,” said DePasquale.

And besides finances, the hope is to truly give a second chance to those who may just need a helping hand.

“If we do it right, we are giving more people hope for a brighter future in their own lives,” he said.

DePasquale’s full report is in progress and hopes to be out in a few months, before the state budget is due. He hopes this information will help lawmakers to make good decisions about where taxpayer dollars are heading.

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