Reduce criminal justice system involvement

"I believe that we can improve the criminal justice system, so that we can protect victims while also ending a cycle of incarceration that has left so many people feeling trapped, helpless, and without an opportunity to return to society after they have been released."
-Governor Tom Wolf

Why is this goal important?

A fair and effective criminal justice system strengthens public safety, eliminates unnecessary spending, and improves the outcomes of formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and communities. The commonwealth strives to reduce the high cost of incarceration and victimization through crime prevention, while building a criminal justice system that supports reentrants seeking a successful return to the community.

What are we working on to reach this goal?

Governor Wolf believes that Pennsylvania must build a criminal justice system that is equitable, fairer, and focused on rehabilitation. In his 2022-23 budget, Governor Wolf secured a $2 million investment for reentry services at the local level for women to give them the best opportunity to start fresh and reduce recidivism. In June 2018, he signed the nation's first "Clean Slate" bill, which makes it easier for those who have interacted with the justice system to reduce the stigma they face when looking for employment and housing. With a focus on reducing barriers to employment, Governor Wolf "banned the box," removing the criminal conviction question from non-civil service job applications for agencies under the governor's jurisdiction.
The governor has signed commonsense reform legislation eliminating driver's license suspensions for non-driving infractions and extending the time a convicted individual must file a post-conviction relief action. The Wolf Administration is also asking the Board of Pardons to expedite applications for pardons from those with low-level marijuana convictions. With the goal of streamlining the delivery of reentry services while strengthening public safety, the Wolf Administration also merged the community supervision and reentry functions of the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP).
Governor Wolf continues to pursue commonsense criminal justice reform and supports the second phase of the Justice Reinvestment initiative (JRI2) which will address the high cost of incarceration in the commonwealth and further reduce recidivism. Governor Wolf believes in investing in effective programs, and in coordination with the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), he has directed his administration to increase the use of evidence-based programs (EBPs) and increase funding for research to support at-risk populations.

How are we doing?

State Prison Population

Under the Wolf Administration, the number of inmates in the state prison system has declined for four consecutive years. The chart below tracks the Department of Corrections (DOC) population by month since June 2015. 

Related Measures


Reducing recidivism decreases criminal justice system involvement. Recidivism refers to the first instance of any type of re-arrest or reincarceration after an individual is released from Department of Corrections (DOC) custody. The graphic displayed tracks recidivism using three separate rates. The rates measure the percentage of individuals from a release cohort who are either arrested by the police or returned to DOC custody within six months, one year, and three years of their release from DOC custody. 

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