Wetzel: Base prison reform on outcomes

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Next year, about 20,000 offenders will be released from Pennsylvania state prisons. Of those, roughly 8 percent, or 1,600 of them will be returning to Allegheny County, and state Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel is doing whatever he can to make sure they succeed.

Wetzel met with the New Pittsburgh Courier Editorial Board Dec. 2 to outline the Department of Corrections’ initiatives and policy changes aimed at doing just that.

“We really don’t need to hear more politicians saying they’re ‘tough on crime.’ I want to hear one say let’s get smart on crime,” Wetzel said.

He said prison reform needs to focus on the impact the system has on people, and that it is currently over-affecting African-Americans. With approximately 51,000 inmates currently in state prisons, that means one out of 200 Pennsylvanians are incarcerated. Of those, one in 64 is Black, one in 32 is a Black male, and one in 15 is a Black male between 20-34 years of age.

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