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 week.

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 state population.

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.

Inmate Maltreatment
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 refrigerator outdoors.

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.

Pennsylvania Jails