Philadelphia’s Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails: Taking Stock of a Year of Change and the Challenges That Remain

Jul 20, 2011

The Philadelphia Research Initiative's study, Philadelphia’s Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails, sheds light on dramatic changes within Philadelphia's jail system. 

Though the population in Philadelphia's jails quadrupled from 1980 to 2008, in the last few years, the inmate count has dropped in a dramatic way. In 2010 alone, the average daily population declined by 11 percent. Population in the system peaked in January 2009 at 9,787; in June 2011, it stood at 8,048, after falling below 7,700 in the spring.

As a result, the city’s budget for its jails in Fiscal 2012, at $231 million, is $10 million lower than it was three years ago. The declining population has also contributed to a reduction in the amount of overtime paid to police ($6.4 million over two years) and sheriff’s personnel ($1 million in Fiscal 2011).

As we reported last year in the Philadelphia Research Initiative’s initial look at this topic, Philadelphia’s Crowded, Costly Jails: The Search for Safe Solutions, much of the early reduction in the city’s jail population was due to a change in the state law that forced certain sentenced inmates to serve time in state prisons instead of the city’s jails.

But in 2010, which is the focus of this report, the most significant factors in the declining jail population were drops in the numbers of those detained on a pretrial basis and those held for alleged violations of probation or parole.

The Philadelphia Research Initiative conducted a Webinar on Thursday, July 21 to discuss the latest analysis of the city's inmate population. Video of this webinar is provided below. 

Moderator - Larry Eichel, project director of the Philadelphia Research Initiative
Presenter – Claire Shubik-Richards, senior associate of the Philadelphia Research Initiative

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