The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) is the Pennsylvania state agency that is responsible for the confinement, care and rehabilitation of approximately 37,000 inmates at state correctional facilities funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The agency has its headquarters in Hampden Township, Cumberland County in Greater Harrisburg, near Mechanicsburg. In October 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a “memorandum of understanding” that allows the PADOC and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole to share like resources and eliminate duplicative efforts. All parole supervision now falls under the jurisdiction of the PADOC; while parole release decisions remain under the jurisdiction of the PA Board of Probation and Parole. The two agencies remain separate. With the passage of the 2021-2022 Pennsylvania budget, this merger became official and permanent.
There are currently 23 state correctional institutions, one motivational boot camp, one central training academy, 14 community corrections centers, and the DOC contracts with approximately 40 contractors across the Commonwealth that provide transitional services. The DOC employs more than 16,000 individuals, and the PADOC’s population report is available on its website at www.cor.pa.gov.
Pennsylvania has a distinguished reputation in penology. The commonwealth was the birthplace of the penitentiary concept, also known as the Pennsylvania System. Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 on what was then a cherry orchard outside of Philadelphia. It was considered at the time to be “the world’s greatest penitentiary.” Known to historians as “the first true penitentiary,” Eastern State operated until 1970.
The Bureau of Correction was created by an act of Legislature in September 1953. The foundation was based on a report by Retired Army Major General Jacob L. Devers, and his special committee to investigate prison problems. The committee was convened shortly after riots at Pittsburgh and Rockview in early 1953. It was the committee’s mission to recommend ways to improve the correctional system and reduce unrest. Up to this point the state’s prisons fell under the Department of Welfare. Here they were governed by their own boards of trustees. The Devers Committee suggested the establishment of one agency, whose sole purpose was to manage the state prison system. Appointed by Gov. John S. Fine, Arthur T. Prasse was selected as the first commissioner of corrections, where he remained until 1970.
In 1980, the Bureau of Correction changed hands from the former Pennsylvania Department of Justice, to the newly created Office of General Counsel to the Governor. Constitutional changes resulted in an elected state attorney general and the disbanding of the Justice Department.
In 1984, under Act 245, the Bureau of Correction was elevated to cabinet-level status, making it the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
The Department of Corrections maintains 25 institutions across the state as well as the Community Corrections Center, where offenders prepare for re-entry into the community.
The facilities are classified into 4 security levels: Minimum, Medium, Close, and finally Maximum.