by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Penna. (PRCN, 8 March 2006) -- The man who runs Pennsylvania’s prisons asked lawmakers this past week to grant his department the budget increase proposed by Governor Rendell.
Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said a 49-million-dollar increase on prison spending is needed to keep up with personnel and care costs.
And he said lawmakers should be concerned about the growing inmate population.
"Last year, we grew by three percent for a total of an additional 1,481 inmates," Beard said. "This is an average growth rate of about 123 a month. Female population grew by even more. The current population of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is just over 42,500 inmates, and we’re at 110percent of capacity."
The cost to house an inmate in the Pennsylvania prison system now stands at 31-thousand dollars a year.
Beard said the department is doing what it can to control costs.
That has included closing the state prison at Waynesburg, mothballing the Pittsburgh facility and shifting those prisoners to other locations.