BLOG: Reducing Crime and Investing in Re-Entry and Mental Health Treatment
By: John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections
January 29, 2016
In 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections completed several initiatives in keeping with Governor Wolf’s promise of Government that Works.
These accomplishments demonstrate the department’s commitment to its mission: to reduce criminal behavior by providing individualized treatment and education to offenders, resulting in successful community reintegration through accountability and positive change.
Governor Wolf and I announced in early 2016 that Pennsylvania’s state inmate population decreased by nearly 850 inmates in 2015, which represents the greatest one-year decline in population over the last 40 years. This announcement is the capstone to a year of accomplishment for the system under Governor Wolf’s leadership. DOC has made smart population and recidivism reduction as well as creating efficiencies to save taxpayer dollars even greater priorities.
In 2015, Governor Wolf supported Department of Corrections officials in their continued work to reduce recidivism. Through the use of performance-based contracts that hold vendors accountable for the programs they provide, the DOC announced an overall recidivism reduction of 11.3 percent in the community corrections system. These results are the second consecutive period of reduction.
In addition to community corrections recidivism reduction, the DOC in 2015 also announced exciting statistics that show a degrees in the six-month, one-year and three-year recidivism rates. The latest three-year and six-month rates are the lowest ever recorded, and the one-year rate is by far the largest drop from the previous year (a total drop of 5.3 percentage points).
Reducing Re-entry Barriers
In 2015, Governor Wolf gave the support necessary for Department of Corrections officials to expand their work in the area of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). The goal is to help them eliminate the craving for heroin, which will help them to have one less barrier as they try to return to society as crime-free individuals. Individuals who don’t crave drugs, don’t use drugs or need to commit crimes to support their additions. This results in safer communities.
Improving Mental Health Services
In 2015, the DOC settled a lawsuit with the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, while it continued to improve and enhance services provided to mentally ill offenders.
Also, in 2015, every DOC employee was trained in Mental Health First Aid; the DOC established an Office of Mental Health Advocate; and a number of new diversionary housing units were established to ensure mentally ill offenders are not placed in restricted housing units. Work continues in this area continually improving the DOC’s mental health.
Read more agency year in review blog posts.
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