Pennsylvania may bring to mind Amish Country, Lake Erie and
Hershey bars. The state is the home to 67 counties, with Philadelphia
County the most populated, and Montgomery County taking second place.
Millions of viewers find comedic relief as they watch the employees of
fictional Dunder-Mifflin live out their lives in Scranton, PA every
The lives of Jim and Pam, however, have little to do with the reality
of many residents of the state who are facing or currently serving jail
or prison time. The current incarceration rate in Pennsylvania is 406
per 100,000 residents. This is compared to a rate of 502 in the U.S.
Pennsylvania has a serious issue with overcrowded jails and prisons,
and the problem is only getting worse. Since 1981, the state's prison
population has grown from 5,284 to 52,000, which represents a 618%
increase. Three new state correctional facilities that are currently
under construction are expected to be filled to capacity once they open
in 2013. About 2/3 of inmates in the state are African American or
Latino, although these groups make up a much smaller percentage of the
The overcrowding of Pennsylvania jails and prisons is thought to be
largely due to the increased rate of incarceration of non-violent
offenders, and also on the high rate of offender recidivism. Jails and
prisons are overcrowded, and there is a high rate of recidivism.
In 2010, Nicholas Pinto, an inmate serving time in the Scranton Prison
for alleged child pornography, was mistreated by other inmates and
guards to the point that he became comatose and nearly died. Pinto
claims that guards roughed him up, forced him to stand naked in a cold
cell for hours at a time, and taunted with relentlessly.
One day, as Pinto was returning from the recreation area to his cell,
he was ambushed by another inmate, who kicked him in the head 15 times,
shattering his face and causing brain injuries. This incident has led
to other inmate accounts of abuse, and has sparked public concern about
prison justice and the culture of the facility where Pinto, and others
like him, are supposed to be held in protective custody. Currently, a
federal civil rights law suit is being prepared with the hopes that the
system will respond in a way that will prevent this type of abuse being
inflicted on other inmates.
Obscure Pennsylvania Laws
You probably know that it is illegal to shoplift or to drive a car
under the influence of alcohol in Pennsylvania. Did you know it is also
illegal to have over 16 women live in a house together, because that
constitutes a brothel? It is also illegal to sleep on top of a
Don't sing in the bathtub if you are in this state, because technically
you will be committing a crime. And if you are driving down a country
road at night in this state, you are required by the law to stop every
mile, send out a rocket signal, and wait 10 minutes for all livestock
to clear the road before you continue on your way.