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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pennsylvania Ships Prisoners out of State

Pennsylvania is transferring thousands of inmates out of state to deal with overcrowding conditions nearing crisis proportions, prison officials say.

The program has sent 1,633 prisoners to Michigan and Virginia, which have contracts with Pennsylvania to accept its prisoners, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday. A further 467 will be moved by the end of April, officials said.

Pennsylvania has experienced a rise in its prison population for decades, but the population has increased dramatically in the past five years, and corrections officials say four new prisons under construction will be filled as soon as they open in 2013.

Opponents of the program say shipping prisoners out of the state is not the way to solve the problem.

"This business of sending people out of state is not only a tremendously expensive strategy of dealing with the problem," Bill DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, said, "it will do little to alleviate dangerous overcrowding in the long term."

The society, a private non-profit advocating for improvements to the criminal justice system, wants alternatives to imprisonment, such as community-based treatment for low-level, non-violent offenders, the Inquirer reported.

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