County Controller: Jail Alternative Programs Help County, Inmates

Wagner calls for alternative program expansion for nonviolent inmates

Allegheny County Jail
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PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is calling for an expansion of jail alternative housing programs in order to save the county money and better rehabilitate nonviolent inmates.

Wagner states in her Wednesday release that the Allegheny County Jail currently saves $10 per inmate per day in alternative housing or work release programs, more than $1 million per year at the current contracted capacity.

The county housed 1,274 inmates in one of four alternative programs in 2017. Wagner says increasing that number to 2,400 – or a quarter of the jail’s population – would save an extra million a year.

The individuals chosen for these programs must be identified as low-risk to the community by jail management, judges or service providers within the jail.

“These alternative housing programs provide sort of a halfway between being in the jail and having complete freedom,” Wagner told the KDKA Radio Afternoon News. “They are able to work while in they’re in these programs, they also pay a portion of their income into these programs.”

Wagner says it’s not just about saving money, but also better rehabilitation for inmates.

“They can undergo substance abuse counseling and really better create plans for them to reenter their communities upon their release,” Wagner said. “So what we’re suggesting upon auditing these programs and seeing how well [they] are doing that it would be a wise investment for the county to try to work with these providers even more as an alternative to jail when it is appropriate.”

Jail operations cost the county nearly $86 million in 2017, $8.7 million more than the year before according to the release.

The Controller’s office regularly audits the contracted providers of jail alternative programs: Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Renewal, Inc., and two facilities operated by The Program for Offenders, Inc.