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 HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania's prison inmate population will continue to grow and spending for corrections will spiral steadily upward if current policies remain unchanged, Corrections Commissioner Joseph D. Lehman said today.
 Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on corrections, Lehman unveiled a report entitled "Corrections 2000," offering a glimpse of where the state corrections system is headed absent any change in present policies.
 The report, prepared by the Corrections Department's Office of Planning, Research and Statistics, forecast the following:
 -- Despite unparalleled prison expansion -- the addition of 10,000 new cells by 1996 -- cell shortages in the state prison system are expected to continue unabated during the 1990s and the inmate population, now at 25,800, will exceed 33,000 by the year 2000.
 -- The Department of Corrections budget, which nearly tripled between fiscal years 1981-82 and 1991-92 from $126 million to $461 million, will increase by 161 percent from 1990 to 2000, from $404 million to in excess of $1 billion.
 -- The state corrections workforce, which numbered less than 3,000 in 1980, is projected to reach nearly 11,500 by the year 2000.
 "The budget and workforce figures that you have before you are based on the currently built or planned capacity expansion," Lehman told the committee. "They do not take into account the additional bed space and workforce needed to deal with the crowding we will face in the year 2000. The added capacity to deal with this would significantly add to the complement and to the budget."
 Lehman attributed the unprecedented growth in the prison inmate population and corrections spending to policy decisions made during the 1980s. "If you look at the state prison population patterns from the 1940s through the 1970s," he said, "you'll see a pretty stable or level rate of incarceration. It is during the 1980s that we witnessed a very sharp upward spiral in the rate of incarceration."
 He said the growth of the inmate population between 1980 and 1990 -- an increase of 171 percent -- cannot be explained in terms of crime when, during the same period, the rate of reported crime increased by just 6 percent.
 He said the growth was triggered by revised sentencing policies, including the imposition of an array of mandated minimum sentences for some offenses, particularly drug offenses.
 "Through policies established over the last decade or so," Lehman told the legislators, "you have taken over sentencing discretion either in the imposition of mandatory sentences or in guidelines crafted by the Sentencing Commission you created."
 Lehman added, "In addition to the cost implications of current policy, you need to be aware of the fact that there are some unintended consequences of our current policies."
 He said policies established during the 1980s have resulted in the incarceration of non-violent offenders at a rate higher than that of violent offenders.
 "Those policies -- particularly those associated with our war on drugs -- also have had a disproportionate impact in terms of race and gender," he added. "Women and minorities have been unevenly impacted by the `war on drugs' with 1990 drug commitment levels exceeding 1980 levels by over 1,000 percent."
 Lehman told the legislators: "A measure of what has happened, even the unintended consequences of our policies, needs to be the basis for your formulation of new policy."
 He urged passage of pending sentencing reform legislation "that will focus the resources of the parole process in our system on the high risk dangerous offenders." He also urged approval of proposed revised sentencing guidelines that would provide sentencing judges with more flexibility and wider latitude, while having the net effect of lengthening sentences for violent offenders and shortening sentences for non-violent offenders.
 "Together we face significant challenges," Lehman told the committee. "But I am confident that we can successfully address hem if we do so in a rational and reasonable manner that takes into careful account the consequences of what we propose and what we do."
 -0- 8/9/93
 /CONTACT: Ben Livingood of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 717-975-4862/

CO: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

CC -- PH012 -- 0246 09/09/93 10:49 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 9, 1993

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