When we think of punishments for criminal offenders, we often consider prison or jail the most appropriate place to send them. But increasingly, alternative punishments and sentencing options are providing more financial relief for states and better preparing offenders for their release back into society.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, it costs over $85 per day to house an inmate in state prison. The DOC also notes that there has been 600 percent increase in the prison population from 1980 to today. The increased costs and overcrowding situation have been so bad that the DOC ships some inmates to be housed in other states. Currently, the state ships over 2,000 Pennsylvania inmates to other states while serving their sentences, and Pennsylvania must pay other states to do so.
Alternative Sentencing - Work Release
According to Walter M. Phillips, Jr., Chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, non-violent offenders, in particular, can be better served by alternative sentencing. He argues that intermediate punishments focus more on reintegrating the offender back into the community, making it less likely that the offender will revisit the system after a parole or probation violation.
In an effort to reduce costs to state and local governments and keep recidivism rates low, many counties have started alternative sentencing programs, including work release. Bucks and Montgomery counties have instituted work release programs, Chester County offers an Intermediate Punishment Program.
Montgomery County's work release program was established in 1968. According to the county, over 250 male and female inmates work in the program. Income earned on the job goes to pay administrative expenses and also helps inmates pay fines and court costs. The balance of any money earned goes to the inmate.
Similarly, in Bucks County the Department of Corrections designed its work release program to help offenders reintegrate themselves into the community and stay connected with the job market. Residents in the program are required to pay a certain percentage of their income to room and board as well as travel expenses. The resident also is given the opportunity to pay court costs, fines and other debts through the program.
Chester County's Intermediate Punishment Program, while not explicitly guaranteeing work release, does require a period of incarceration, electronic home monitoring, intensive probation supervision, and alcohol or drug treatment, if necessary.
Working With an Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. While avoiding any sentence is ideal, there may be alternative sentencing options available, including work release, house arrest and community service depending on the charges against you.