Pennsylvania Spends on Prison, Cuts Other Services

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[Economics] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 62]
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Pennsylvania Spends on Prison, Cuts Other Services

I want to write about my thoughts on prison reform and rehabilitation specifically in the state of Pennsylvania. Prison reform? Criminal "justice" reform? As long as the criminal justice system and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) remain lucrative industries those things will never happen!

To have any type of reform, I believe people should be held accountable for their misconduct (judges, prosecutors, governors, secretary of corrections, correctional officers, etc.) but that's never the case in Pennsylvania. Here in Pennsylvania, these rural areas in particular, the PDOC is a refuge for the unqualified and uneducated, who don't desire anything better for themselves.

Pennsylvania's state budget is crumbling due to the amount of overtime received by COs and to the excess state employees hired in the PDOC. Governor Wolf announced that he wanted to lay off 900 unneeded state employees and close a few jails because of the budget strain. However, Governor Wolf was opposed (almost violently) by the rural population. Their argument wasn't about the "criminals" that could possibly go free; they were concerned about not finding employment anywhere else. Overwhelmed, Wolf decided to only close one prison (which wasn't in a rural area) and retain the state employees (COs).

Instead of doing what he originally saw fit to do, Wolf was forced to cut back on the Meals on Wheels program, raise the state tax, and allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays amongst other things. As you would figure, all of those cutbacks didn't even begin to alleviate the budgetary stress. Why? Because those things weren't issues.

The fact still exist that there are too many state prison officials being hired and Pennsylvania needs to cut back on this senseless hiring, but Gov. Wolf was pretty much bullied out of action. All of this factors into the lack of prison and criminal justice reform, for if there was someone who could educate the tax payers who honestly believe that their "hard earned" dollars are "keeping their community safe" instead of funding a correctional officer's workers' compensation scam, educate them about where their money is actually going and what needs to be done. If a majority of the tax payers knew the truth about their money, about the funding of our oppression, suppression and torture, I believe that they would be more inclined to demand criminal justice and prison reform.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer provides a good exposure of the interest that prison guard unions and other prison employees have in maintaining or increasing the number of imprisoned people and the number of prisons in the United $tates. And also the political power these workers can exert when their jobs are threatened.

But we have to put this information in a larger context. Prisons are a very small part of state budgets, so it's not the CO overtime causing the Pennsylvania budget to crumble. In the Pennsylvania 2016-2017 budget, 8% went towards prisons.(1) It is good that the budget crisis in Pennsylvania is leading to considerations of closing prisons, but the response by COs and others benefiting from jobs with the prisons is the same we see across the country. Nonetheless, we need to be honest that shutting down a few prisons won't make much of a dent in the state budget.

While we would also like to think that people faced with information about oppression and torture would oppose it, we don't think the terrible conditions in Amerikan prisons are such a big secret. Many Amerikans are vocal in calling for even worse conditions, arguing that prisoners deserve whatever happens to them. And there is little outrage when stories of corruption among prison guards come out. The financial rewards all Amerikans are getting by living here within this wealthy imperialist country has created a population that supports imperialism and its criminal injustice system. While the oppressed nations within U.$. borders do generally come down against the oppression and corruption, the Amerikkkan nation, especially in rural counties, can be counted on to throw its support behind the system.

Note:
Penn Live, July 8, 2016. PA spends more on prisons than colleges, report says. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/07/pa_prison_budget_tops_higher_e.html
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