Why is Mass Incarceration Increasing in PA Suburbs, Yet Decreasing in Cities? The Most Rapid Rise is in Bucks County. | Newtown News of Interest | Scoop.it

From his office in Doylestown, 25 miles north of the city that elected the nation’s most progressive district attorney last November, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub has a particular vantage point.

He sees what’s happening in Philadelphia, where officials have worked to reduce the jail population by more than 30 percent over the past few years, and where DA Larry Krasner has ordered staff to seek sentences below the guidelines on many offenses. And he’s aware of state-level efforts to reduce a prison population that’s finally declining, down 6.4 percent over the last five years, after decades of exponential growth.

It’s just that Weintraub doesn’t see what it has to do with his job of keeping Bucks County safe.

A Rapid Rise in State Prison Sentences in Bucks County
Since 2000, the number of people sent to state prison from Bucks County has risen far more rapidly than in any other local suburban county. By contrast, admissions to state prisons from Philadelphia have decreased over the same time frame.

In fact, rather than reform, he’s looking to get tougher: In the last few years, he’s been increasingly charging fatal DUIs as third-degree murders as opposed to the less-serious vehicular homicides, and he’s slapped two dozen drug dealers with “drug delivery resulting in death” charges.

That may be one reason why, though the crime rate in Bucks County fell by 19 percent from 2006 to 2015, the number of people sentenced to state prison increased by 29 percent. When parole violators are included, the number of people sent to state prison from the county increased 97 percent over that same period.

“We’re holding people more accountable for either their malicious intent or the end result of their malicious conduct, and we’ve been very aggressive,” Weintraub said. “Nobody has come to me and said, ‘You’re sending too many people to state prison in Bucks County.’ I think, by and large, people feel protected and safe.”

A similar dynamic is playing out around the nation: As incarceration declines in urban areas, it’s increasing pretty much everywhere else.