Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: Government That Works

Jan 06, 2016, 10:00 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Secretary John Wetzel, completed several initiatives in keeping with Governor Tom 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.

Reducing Crime

In 2015, Governor Tom 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 Reentry Barriers

In 2015, Governor Tom 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, won't use drugs or need to commit crimes to support their additions. This results in safer communities.

Assisting a Neighboring County Prison

While county prisons are not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, the DOC still serves as a resource for county prisons.  DOC officials recently announced that, in 2016, SCI Huntingdon will provide the neighboring county prison with inmate and employee meals at a cost of $2 per meal. This is the first time that such an agreement has been made with a county prison, and it also shows how state government is willing to assist county governments.

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.


In 2015, the DOC, specifically SCI Graterford, was recognized for being instrumental partners with the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Brain Injury Association of PA in demonstrating the problem of brain injury in prisons. As a result they received the Organization Award from the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania.

The project for which the award was granted involved screening SCI Graterford inmates for brain injury and further assessments of those with positive screens to determine cognitive impairments that will impact re-entry into the community. The work also identified inmates who require Neuro-Resource Facilitation, which is a community service provided to individuals living with brain injuries and their families. Services provided include support in coping with the issues of living with brain injury and transition back to work and the community. Neuro-Resource Facilitation helps individuals find and apply for the most relevant programs and services to meet their needs and attain their goals and help them problem-solve any barriers that may arise.

Also in 2015, the Department of Corrections was one of several agencies that received the Pioneer Institute's "Better Government Award" for its work in the area of incorporating performance goals and measures of recidivism reduction into contracts with privately operated halfway houses. Financial incentives for recidivism reduction and penalty for increases in recidivism were used in contracts in an effort to reduce recidivism by making community corrections facilities more accountable for public safety outcomes.

Pennsylvania's community corrections performance-based contracting idea was developed by the Department of Corrections' Office of Planning, Research and Statistics, in conjunction with Dr. Kiminori Nakamura from the University of Maryland. Dr. Nakamura was brought to the department in 2011 under grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice, as an "embedded criminologist." In this role, he serves as a research/evaluation partner and a general scientific advisor to the department.  He has assisted in the development of many research-based initiatives throughout the department, including the development of the community corrections performance-based contracting model. 

Additional DOC accomplishments can be reviewed by visiting the agency's website at

Media contact: Susan McNaughton, 717-728-4025


SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Corrections