Pa. Returns Out Of State Inmates
(06/03/2011)

HARRISBURG, Pa. After spending over a year in Michigan prisons to relieve overcrowding, about 1,100 Pennsylvania inmates have been brought back to their home state, according to Pennsylvania officials.

Pennsylvania shipped more than 2,000 inmates to Michigan and Virginia prisons in early 2010 to ease the 25 percent rise in its prison population experienced during the previous six years.

The states prison population was exacerbated by a temporary halt to paroles of violent offenders in 2008 after a parolee murdered a Philadelphia police officer.

The state’s prison population is currently down to about 51,200, and additional beds were built in the interim, allowing the state to bring back the prisoners it sent to Michigan.

The inmates were bused back to Pennsylvania over a period of one month, according to Sue Bensinger, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

While in Michigan, inmates were allowed to communicate with family members through video-conferencing, and some families traveled to Michigan to visit inmates. Some experts have criticized the practice of transferring inmates out of state because it removes an inmates support system.

Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said he wants the return of the 1,000 inmates still housed in Virginia as soon as possible. The state pays Virginia $62 per inmate per day to house them.

Pennsylvania plans to build three new prison facilities at a cost of $600 million to accommodate its prisoners, although it originally planned to build four new prisons for $800 million.

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