DePasquale wants to reduce prison population, tax burden

Steve Tawa
January 17, 2019 - 1:50 pm
Eugene DePasquale

Tony Romeo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania's auditor general believes too many low-level, non-violent offenders are in state prisons, and he is looking for ways to save taxpayers money, while pushing criminal justice reforms. 

Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says figures from 2015 show it cost nearly $74 million to keep people in state prisons beyond their minimum sentence, costing an average of $20,000 per person.

"That five months is the time these individuals, who have paid their debts to society, could better spend working and supporting their families, and not being a burden on taxpayers, when they are at that point, not a threat to society," DePasquale said.

He points out nearly 70 percent of all prison sentences are for misdemeanor crimes.

'That means that more than 30,000 people who committed low-level, usually non-violent crimes, are clogging our prisons," he said.

DePasquale, whose father served 8 1/2 years in a federal prison because of his drug addiction, says prison time should be reserved for the most serious offenders.

DePasquale says state prison costs rose by 50 percent between 2006 and 2015, from $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion. On any given day, DePasqule notes, there are about 47,000 people in prisons across the commonwealth, the highest incarceration rate in the northeast.

"By adopting a smarter approach, we can reinvest some of the money saved into diversionary, education and drug treatment programs," he said.

The special report by the Department of the Auditor General is expected to be completed by fall.