Jail populations smaller, violent crime reduced

Philadelphia’s jail population declined 11 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to a study released yesterday from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative.

The report reveals that the average daily population in 2010 was 8,273 — down from 9,321 in 2009. The number dipped as low as 7,700 earlier this year, but rose to 8,048 in June. Experts attribute the reduction to fewer people being held pretrial and those held for parole and probation violations.

The fewer inmates, which depending on who you ask can cost anywhere from $20 to $95 per inmate per day, saved the city prison system $10 million. It also meant $6.4 million over two years less in police overtime and $1 million less for sheriff’s officer salaries this year.

“I would take it as a collaboration and of better things to come. It’s a statement of what the DA has done in terms of changing some charging policies, getting rid of some of them,” said William DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. “It points out the move to more alternatives to incarceration.”

District Attorney Seth Williams said the policy changes have been part of a collaboration across the law enforcement and prison systems in Philadelphia.

“Through our efforts to charge only the crimes we can prove in court, divert small amounts of marijuana cases as well as low-level misdemeanors out of the court system and offer appropriate plea offers on other cases, we have simultaneously reduced the number of cases dismissed and delayed, reduced the size of Philadelphia’s prison population and concentrated our resources on violent crimes and other felonies,” Williams said.