Jefferson County Imprisons its Residents at Almost Twice the Rate of the Rest of the State

JEFFERSON CO., Pa. (EYT) – According to a recent study by the Prison Policy Initiative and the Public Interest Law Center, Jefferson County imprisons more people per 100,000 residents than almost any other county in the Commonwealth.

With a rate of 392 prisoners per 100,000 residents, Jefferson County’s imprisonment rate is almost double the state average of about 200 residents per 100,000, the report says. Venango County (452/100K), Philadelphia County (436/100K), Dauphin County (361/100K), and Warren County (331/100K) round out the top five Pennsylvania counties with the highest incarceration rates.

“Out of Pennsylvania’s top five highest imprisonment counties, three — Venango, Jefferson, and Warren — are rural counties in the western part of the state with significantly higher poverty rates than most of the state,” said the report.

Jefferson County’s poverty rate is 11% according to July 2021 information from the US Census Bureau, with an estimated per capita income of $26,890.

According to the report, western Pennsylvania communities, in particular, face high rates of opioid use, including Venango County.

“We know that people who use opioids are at heightened risk for arrest and criminal-legal system involvement. In fact, 21% of 2020 court commitments to Pennsylvania state prisons were for ‘narcotic drug offenses,’ suggesting that communities with high rates of opioid use are particularly vulnerable to arrest, conviction, and imprisonment,” said the report.

“[R]ural communities in western Pennsylvania are in need of focused resources and support to reduce the risk of criminal legal system involvement and break the cycle of poverty.”

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