Funding for a law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in July aimed at overhauling the state correction system now has the support of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and the Warren County Commissioners.
The commissioners approved a resolution urging the General Assembly to approve House Bill 135 to provide funding for the program from the Governor's Justice Reinvestment work group, saying the Warren County Jail does not qualify for the program that would send some state correctional prisoners back to county jail.
The Justice Reinvestment work group's recommendations "allow for cost savings in the state corrections system and redirection of resources toward local public safety entities to employ new and more effect practices," according to the CCAP website.
"What happened is the state approved an action where the state can return state prisoners to the counties for the duration of their sentence, but they didn't fund it in this action. There is pending legislation to fund this, we have been requested by CCAP to react in a way that would support passage of this to help get funding to the counties that might be well affected. And this basically is a resolution that we support that as a county to try and get rid of some more unfunded mandates," County Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said. "At this time we do not think that Warren County will be affected because of the capacity of our facilities, but you never know."
According to CCAP, House Bill 135 contains "the elements of reinvestment funding, including the formula for driving funds to counties for probation and county jail reinvestment still need to be approved by the General Assembly..." and "additional legislation is necessary to authorize the transfer of funding from state prison purposes to county jails, county probation departments, and local law enforcement."
Commissioner John Eggleston said the county jail currently "does not qualify to have state prisoners sent back to us" because of the size of the facility and the population of the prisoners.
"It shouldn't impact us directly unless we get a strong fix of law-abiding citizens and the population drops considerably," he said.
"One of the fastest growing industries in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is our state penitentiaries, it's one of the fastest growing areas of government. And what I will say is that I just can't see how the counties are going to be equipped to deal with some of these individuals that are going back even with the funding," Commissioner John Bortz said. "This is a sticky wicket, if CCAP wants us to approve this, so be it. It will get some funding to some institutions at the county level which will participate in this. But I think we need to keep our eyes and ears open for it."
HB 135 was re-referred to the appropriations committee on June 4 and no action has been taken.