Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A penny saved is a penny earned for college

An Indiana woman wanted to help her goddaughter go to college, so back in 1997, she started saving pennies. 

Faith Hammock got them any way she could, even picking pennies off the street. Recently, Hammock added the 500,000 cent to the collection she calls "Pennies from Heaven." 

That translates into a $5,000 boost to Kyla Gilbert's college fund. And Gilbert is grateful for the support. She says, "All this hard work that they've put into me, I had to put it into something else and show them that I'm a good student and they're doing, they're investing in me and they're investing in something good."

Gilbert will head to Indiana University in the fall. With the help of other scholarships, nearly all of her college tuition is paid. 

She says she'll use the money from her godmother to help with room and board. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pennsylvania Prisons Pinch Pennies?

As with most political debates about spending on state corrections systems across the country, the “truth” often depends on which side of the fence you’re standing.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has been trumpeting its ability to shave costs by introducing proposed prison reform policies. The result is what is being called a “historic” moment in corrections history wherein no annual increase in budget has been requested – unlike the average $81 million annual increase that is typically conferred.

Policymakers attribute the savings to their dedication to trimming the fat in the state’s corrections program by improving department processes, by canceling construction plans of at least one new corrections facility, and by reducing the number of misdemeanor offenders that are sent to prison.

This last has caused no small amount of contention among Governor Tom Corbett’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group, which is charged with hammering out the new policy by the end of June 2012. Public disagreement has been aired regarding the plan to forgo sending some misdemeanor offenders to prison in an attempt to draw down the prison population.

What’s more, there is disagreement on a larger scale with the DOC’s pronouncements of savings in the first place, noting that while Governor Corbett has sidelined the plan to build a new facility in Fayette County, he is moving forward with the construction of three new prisons and the expansion of nine existing facilities that will cost taxpayers an estimated $685 million. Decarcerate PA, a group spearheading protest against such expansion, recently accused the governor in an open letter of kowtowing to the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, which donated $102,000 to his campaign.

If Decarcerate PA has its facts straight (which the Governor claims it does not), then “saving” $81 million next year will not seem so historic after all.