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Justice Reinvestment in Pennsylvania: Reducing Recidivism and Averting Costs by Strengthening Probation and Sentencing Practices

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2021
11 pages

After characterizing the challenges facing the Pennsylvania criminal justice system in 2015, this report describes the features and effects of the state’s Justice Reinvestment approach in 2019 that addressed these challenges.


In 2015, Pennsylvania had the highest rate of incarcerated adults in the Northeast. Approximately 50,000 people were incarcerated in state prison, costing the state just over $2 billion annually. Approximately 250,000 people were supervised by 65 county probation departments with no state guidance and shrinking state grant funding, and 35 percent of probation terms were just over 3 years. In order to build on prior efforts and address current challenges related to costs, supervision, and recidivism, state leaders committed the state to a Justice Reinvestment approach. This effort was guided with technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, as well as the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). State Legislation developed from an analysis of criminal justice data addressed short state prison sentences, investment in more effective county probation that holds offenders accountable, and improvement in sentencing policies that further reduce recidivism. These changes are expected to reduce the prison population by at least 600 more people than had been projected, reduce recidivism, and avert $45.8 million in corrections spending by 2025. A new Justice Reinvestment fund will accumulate and reinvest savings realized from evidence-based probation strategies. 2 figures