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One of the most significant barriers to reform is the lack of local incarceration data. As part of our investigation, we filed Right-to-Know requests to each of the 62 county jails for this data.
We requested the following on a per-month basis: (1) the total number of people incarcerated in the jail, (2) the breakdown of the total population by the number of people sentenced versus pretrial, and (3) a further breakdown of the pretrial population by the number of people who are incarcerated on unaffordable cash bail, a detention order, and/or a detainer.
Of the requests we submitted, we received denials from Allegheny, Butler, Carbon, and Elk counties. Each responded that the requested records do not exist. We did not receive a response from Lycoming. The remaining 57 counties provided records in disparate formats and in varying degrees of completeness. Due to the inherent limitations of the data, we were unable to determine the precise number of people incarcerated on unaffordable bail at the state-level.
The lack of accurate, uniform data makes it impossible to glean a complete picture of local incarceration in Pennsylvania. This visualization reveals the crucial gaps in county jail data and where they exist across the state.NEXT: pretrial incarceration spendings