Feb. 17, 2021

HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Department of Corrections and the Department of State. Here are the key takeaways from the day:

Department of State will hide Inspector General report on failure to publicize Constitutional amendment protecting victims of childhood sexual assault:

· Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid was asked about media reports indicating the governor’s administration has not committed to releasing the findings of an ongoing inspector general’s investigation into the department’s failure to advertise a constitutional amendment protecting victims of childhood sexual assault. While Degraffenreid said the public would know the findings of the report, she stopped short of committing to releasing the full report.

Corrections costs continue to climb despite inmate declines:

· The prison population has declined by over 12,000 inmates since 2011, a 24% reduction. However, operational expenses have continued to increase. From 2011 through the governor’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget proposal, spending on state correctional institutions would increase by over 34%.

COVID-19 has impacted state prisons:

· As of Feb 10, the Department of Corrections had 4,048 total positive staff cases, with four staff deaths. It had 9,661 inmate cases, with 101 deaths. While these numbers are sobering, Secretary John Wetzel testified that the department ranks sixth lowest in the country for incidents in their system.

· The department is projecting $167 million worth of COVID-19-related costs that will be eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21.

· Major assaults on staff at prisons increased in 2020. Executive Deputy Secretary Tabb Bickell testified that 65% of the assaults occurred at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Appropriations Committee
House Republican Caucus
Pennsylvania House of Representatives