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					THE PATRIOT-NEWS                                                                                                                                                                         MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2011 ● S5

                                                                             A PATRIOT-NEWS SPECIAL REPORT
                              HARD TIME FOR TAXPAYERS | FIXING PENNSYLVANIA’S BROKEN PRISON SYSTEM

   PART 3 | THE FALSE START



    ‘REFORMS’ THAT FAILED
    OR MADE THINGS WORSE
   THE FIRST REFORM | TRIPLE R-I                                                                                                                                  THE SECOND REFORM | SIP




                                                         I
   THE IDEA: Letting nonviolent offenders out early                     BY DONALD GILLILAND              ●   dgilliland@patriot-news.com                          THE IDEA: Drug addicts serve a short time in
   after treatment.                                                                                                                                               prison followed by community-based rehab.
   WHY IT FAILED: Their treatment often took                   n 2008, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted what leaders                                          WHY IT FAILED: Too many people can say no.
   longer than their minimum sentences.
                                                               called a “revolutionary” prison reform package. It included                                           State Intermediate Punishment, or SIP,
                                                                                                                                                                  sounds great.
     It was called the Recidivism Risk                         a host of changes designed to reduce the prison population                                            Created in 2005, then expanded in
   Reduction Incentive — better known as
   Triple R-I.                                                 and, with it, the cost to taxpayers. Of the three biggest:                                         2008, SIP targets prisoners convicted of
                                                                                                                                                                  a low-level drug-related offense — for
     The idea was simple: Pennsylvania’s
   prisons are clogged with nonviolent of-                       One fell short.                                                                                  example, a repeat simple possession.
                                                                                                                                                                  The offender is given a flat sentence of
   fenders, especially those convicted only                One fell really short.                                                                                 24 months, but as few as seven months
   of using drugs or a DUI. Why not offer
   to reduce their sentence if they complete               One is about to make the overcrowding even worse.                                                      are served in prison.
   drug and alcohol treatment?                                                                                                                                       That is followed by months in a thera-
     But Triple R-I ran aground on a                                                                                                                              peutic halfway house and outpatient
   catch-22 called the “short min.”                                                                                                                               treatment.
     Here’s the problem:                                                                                                                                             SIP is highly successful — and not
     Because a prisoner’s time waiting                                                                                                                            very popular.
   in county jail for trial and sentenc-                                                                                                                             Some people blame the DAs who must
   ing counts toward his sentence, those                                                                                                                          approve each prisoner in it. Greenleaf
   convicted of low-level crimes often have                                                                                                                       has proposed removing that require-
   only a short time remaining when they                                                                                                                          ment; which makes Victim Advocate
   enter prison before they are eligible for                                                                                                                      Lavery nervous.
   parole.                                                                                                                                                           Pulling the DA out “feels very much
     “I’m seeing people in with a one-                                                                                                                            like the foundation is being pulled out
   month minimum for retail theft, for                                                                                                                            from under victims,” she says.
   stealing hair spray at CVS,” says Parole                                                                                                                          Marsico says it’s “a very good pro-
   Board Chairman Catherine McVey.                                                                                                                                gram, the results are very good ... and
     Yet under current regulations, that                                                                                                                          in Dauphin County, it’s a program we’re
   person can’t be released from state                                                                                                                            utilizing a lot.”
   prison in less than nine months.                                                                                                                                  He argues that the low participation
     And many prisoners complete their                                                                                                                            can’t simply be pinned on recalcitrant
   minimum sentence before they can                                                                                                                               DAs.
   complete their drug rehab. Prison be-                                                                                                                             “There are some offenders who don’t
   comes an incredibly expensive treatment                                                                                                                        want to do SIP because it’s a tough pro-
   center.                                                                                                                                                        gram,” he says.
     The failure of Triple R-I was especial-                                                                                                                         “It’s easier to just do your time. ... The
   ly galling because it passed overwhelm-                                                                                                                        defendants don’t want it and are willing
   ingly. In fact, only two of the state’s 50                                                                                                                     to roll the dice because the judge might
   senators and three of its 203 representa-                                                                                                                      give a lower sentence.”
   tives voted against it.
     That’s in large part because the people
   most wary of it — district attorneys and
   victim advocates — had been convinced
                                                                                                                            JOHN C. WHITEHEAD, The Patriot-News
                                                         Prisoners in the “O” block at Camp Hill; 2,000 prisoners are housed out of state.
                                                                                                                                                                  “Short mins can come in
   to support it.
     The law was a tough sell, says Penn-                                                                                                                         for four months and end
   sylvania Victim Advocate Carol Lavery.
   But many victims do believe in rehabili-
                                                         A second attempt at reform goes nowhere                                                                  up spending 12 because


                                                         W
   tation, and the law specified that the of-
                                                                       hen it became obvious that          CCC’s are not like prisons — resi-
   fender must have no history of violence.
     Prosecutors had a different worry.                                the 2008 reform included          dents may come and go with permis-                       of bureaucracy. It’s a
     “It takes a leap of faith,” said Edward                           fatal flaws, Sen. Stewart          sion — and Marsico argues that treat-
   M. Marsico Jr., Dauphin County district                             Greenleaf, R-Montgomery           ment is inconsistent.                                    waste of money.”
   attorney and head of the Pennsylvania                               County, offered a series of         Greg Rowe from the Philadelphia
                                                         fixes in 2009.                                   DA’s office agrees. He points to a                        SEN. STEWART GREENLEAF, R-Montgomery County
   District Attorneys Association. “I’m
   agreeing to let them out early — is that                 The most dramatic involved the               recent study showing that most of the
   going to be the one guy?”                             short min. At the recommendation of             halfway-house programs need im-
     One prisoner — released early with a                the Department of Corrections, Green-           provement and in some cases actually                     THE THIRD REFORM | STATE TIME
   DA’s approval — goes bad and it’s politi-             leaf suggested allowing some of those           do damage.
                                                         short-min prisoners to go straight to             “They are not secure and the treat-                    THE IDEA: Judges must send offenders to state
   cal red meat in the next election.                                                                                                                             prison instead of county jail.
     But the DAs supported Triple R-I.                   halfway houses for their treatment              ment isn’t good,” says Rowe.
   They knew that state prisons faced an                 instead of prison.                                In the end, the 2009 reform had                        WHY IT FAILED: The first two reforms didn’t free
   overcrowding crisis, and half the county                 After all, they had completed their          nearly all of the reform cut out of it.                  up space in state prisons.
   jails were overcrowded as well.                       minimum sentences. They were sitting              For two years in a row, prison reform
     The Department of Corrections                       in prison specifically for rehab.                in Pennsylvania had failed or made                          If Triple R-I and SIP failed to fulfill
   predicted that Triple R-I would not only                 The idea went nowhere.                       things worse.                                            their promise, the worst is yet to come.
   stave off the need to build more pris-                   “This, in a lot of ways, is a public rela-     So what went wrong?                                       The 2008 law included a provision
   ons, but would even free up space in the              tions nightmare,” says Victim Advocate            A big part of the problem was money.                   pushed by the County Commissioners
   existing ones.                                        Carol Lavery. “It may be the best treat-        With no deep commitment to prison                        Association of Pennsylvania intended to
     Support for the law wasn’t universal.               ment approach for the individual, and           reform, advocates were forced to focus                   relieve overcrowding at the county level.
   One of its critics was then-Attorney                  I’m very much behind the research ... but       on small changes that cost little to                        Under current law, a judge sentencing
   General Tom Corbett.                                  it leads to victims feeling they’ve been        implement. With nearly $1 billion al-                    a prisoner to a minimum term of 2 to 5
     Underlying Corbett’s objection was a                betrayed. The DA, Parole, Victim Wit-           ready committed to building new pris-                    years has the option of ordering them to
   visceral suspicion that prisoners would               ness or my office get angry, angry calls.”       ons — and the state facing huge budget                   serve it in the county jail.
   be let out too early — that retribution                  Dauphin County District Attorney             deficits — reformers had merely been                         But reforms such as Triple R-I and SIP
   and public safety would be sacrificed on               Ed Marsico says he also worries about           nibbling around the edges.                               were supposed to free up more space at
   the altar of bureaucratic expediency.                 the halfway houses, officially called              Real reform would require bold                         the state level. County officials wanted a
     It turned out that Corbett’s fears were             “community correction centers.”                 strokes, but too many state lawmakers                    slice of that pie.
   unfounded, thanks to the short min.                      “I have a huge overarching concern           were afraid of bold strokes.                                Beginning on Nov. 24, judges in most
     “Short mins can come in for four                    about community correction centers:               Not so elsewhere.                                      instances must order prisoners with
   months and end up spending 12 because                 the quality of treatment and lack of              The first bold stroke occurred, of all                  minimum sentences of 2 to 5 years to
   of bureaucracy,” says state Sen. Stewart              security,” he says.                             places, in Texas.                                        serve their time in a state prison.
   Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County. “It’s a                                                                                                                           Many of those prisoners will have
   waste of money.”                                                                                                                                               short minimum sentences.
     Marsico expressed the frustration that                Real reform would require bold strokes, but too many                                                      Initial calculations from the Depart-
                                                                                                                                                                  ment of Corrections predict as many as
   many people felt at a symposium in Har-
   risburg last summer.                                  state lawmakers were afraid of bold strokes.                                                             1,000 new short mins a year.
     “What the hell happened with the                                                                                                                                “I may be shooting high,” says the
   prison reform package that was sup-                     Not so elsewhere.                                                                                      Department of Corrections’ Kathy Gnall,
   posed to save us?” he said. “We knew                                                                                                                           who did the calculation, “but we’re talk-
   about short mins then. ... We’ve been                   The first bold stroke occurred, of all places, in Texas.                                                ing hundreds and hundreds on top of
   sold a bill of goods.”                                                                                                                                         what we already have.”



                                                      FACES OF REFORM | TOUGH LOVE
                                                      WHO: Juanita Edrington-Grant WHERE: Dauphin County
                                                      WHAT SHE DID: Turned her life around after prison




                                                      J
                                                          uanita Edrington-Grant has been there and done that.                    other prisoners.
                                                          She spent 15 years on and off drugs and in and out of jail.               “I didn’t want to do it. I kicked and screamed,” Juanita re-
                                                                                                                                  calls. “I didn’t want to work with offenders.”
                                                            “I had skills, I just chose not to use them — or used                   Wright told her “You talk like you forgot where you came
                                                          them for illegal gain,” she says.                                       from. You’ve got to learn how to help people like I helped you.”
                                                                                                                                    Juanita now runs Christian Recovery Aftercare Ministry Inc. in
                                                        In 1986, she was sentenced to the state prison in Muncy,                  Harrisburg, a nonprofit that helps parolees as they re-enter society.
                                                      where she spent the next six years. That’s where she met                      “You can’t come in here smellin’ of weed,” Juanita says. “I tell
                                                      Thelma Wright, who was part of a prison ministry.                           ’em ‘I’ll call your parole officer.’ I have to let people know I’m not
                                                        “She told me God told her to take hold of me and stick with               playing. I’m not here to pamper you — I’m here to help you.”
                                                      me. ... I didn’t know this lady from a can of paint!”                         Parole Supervisor Lisa Moser says “We really rely on her as
                                                        But Juanita began to change. When she was released, she got               a resource and someone who knows the inside scoop. Everyone
                                                      a paralegal degree from Penn State and a job with the Depart-               in Harrisburg knows Juanita. They respect her, and they listen
                                                      ment of Labor and Industry. She has worked at the Department                to her.”
                                                      of State since 2006.                                                          “If you try hard enough, doors will open,” Juanita says. “It’s
                                                        Then Wright told her it was time to share her lessons with                hard, but it’s not impossible.”

       “Parole makes you accountable. But if you’re going to let ’em out, the community needs to be prepared to take them.”

				
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