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July/August 2011

Inside This Issue:


Exploring the Use of Specialty Courts in Rural Pennsylvania
Jail-Day Costs in Rural Counties, 2009To combat prison overcrowding and increasing costs for corrections, more and more states are investigating and implementing alternative sentencing options for some offenders.

Pennsylvania is following the trend and has been seeing an increase in the use of one such alternative: specialty courts.

Specialty courts, also called treatment courts, accountability courts, and problem-solving courts, deal with a number of problem areas within the criminal justice system and are often titled according to the issue they address, such as drug court, driving under the influence (DUI) court, and mental health court.

Typically, specialty courts are focused on outcomes, such as decreasing incarceration to reduce the number of days offenders spend in jail, lowering recidivism rates and reducing future costs, providing education and job training opportunities to offenders to allow for better employment opportunities, keeping families intact where possible, breaking the cycle of anti-social and criminal behavior in families, and returning productive and engaged citizens back into their communities.

To identify and investigate the use of certain specialty/problem-solving courts in rural Pennsylvania counties, Dr. Martha Troxell and Dr. Erika Frenzel of Indiana University of Pennsylvania surveyed Common Pleas judges, interviewed court and county personnel, and observed specialty court proceedings in rural judicial districts in 2009 and 2010. (Exploring the Use of Specialty Courts in Rural Pennsylvania continued on Page 3)

The research found that while cost savings and benefits from specialty courts were difficult to quantify, all counties interviewed for the study cited savings from the use of specialty courts. Most frequently, the savings and benefits were from jail-days saved, lower recidivism rates and lower future victim costs.

Research concentrates on rural judicial districts
The research, sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, looked to determine: the financial costs and benefits of specialty courts in rural Pennsylvania counties; the success of specialty courts in counties that use them; any unique aspects of rural counties that use specialty courts; whether there were barriers to establishing and/or continuing the courts; and any innovative practices being used by these courts.

The study concentrated on rural judicial districts that had an existing specialty court, were planning for a specialty court, and had no specialty court.

The researchers surveyed Common Pleas judges in the 41 rural judicial districts in Pennsylvania. Of the 138 surveys mailed, 64 completed surveys were returned, for a response rate of 46 percent.

The researchers also interviewed court and county personnel by telephone and in-person and observed the operations of 16 rural specialty courts and their teams in eight jurisdictions to get first-hand accounts of the hearings conducted by the courts.

The researchers obtained 13 procedural manuals developed and used by the specialty courts to understand the courts’ expectations, eligibility requirements, court participants, and, in some cases, the history of the courts’ formation.

Research results
According to the research results, there were 25 existing specialty courts and 17 specialty courts in the planning stages in rural Pennsylvania in 2009-2010.

Of the 14 rural judicial districts that had specialty courts, six had more than one in operation.

The most common types of specialty courts in rural jurisdictions were adult drug courts, which were operating in nine rural judicial districts, and DUI courts, which were operating in 10 rural judicial districts.

In all rural counties interviewed as part of the study, prison overcrowding and incarceration costs were the strongest factors in the decision to use specialty courts.

Although cost savings and benefits from specialty courts were difficult to quantify, all counties interviewed for the study cited savings from the use of specialty courts. Most frequently, these were from jail-days saved, lower recidivism rates and lower victim costs.

All counties had success stories that cited previous criminal offenders who became employed citizens with intact and stable families, and drug-free babies born during the program.

Funding was cited as the most pressing barrier to implementing and sustaining specialty courts. Other barriers included the lack of grant writing expertise among court personnel, the lack of public and private transportation and the inability to secure housing for court participants, and the small populations, geographic isolation, and lack of resources in rural counties.

To create more opportunities for rural judicial districts to implement or consider the use of specialty courts, the researchers offered a number of considerations for state and county governments, including: supporting and conducting long term cost/benefit analyses of and impact evaluations on all programs used as alternatives to incarceration; and providing funding and support for mentoring, grant writing, personnel and program sustainability.

Report available
For a copy of the report, Specialty Courts in Pennsylvania: Establishment, Practice and Effectiveness, call or email the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us, or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Census Shows Slight Decline
Pennsylvania Homeownership Rates Down Over Past Decade
Nationwide, the homeownership rate fell slightly from 66 percent in 2000 to 65 percent in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Closer to home, homeownership rates in Pennsylvania mirrored the national trend with small decreases in both rural and urban counties.

In rural Pennsylvania, the homeownership rate fell from 75 percent in 2000 to 74 percent 2010. In urban Pennsylvania, the homeownership rate declined 2 percentage points over the decade, from 70 percent to 68 percent.

Despite the drop in homeownership rates, the number of occupied housing units in both rural and urban Pennsylvania increased. From 2000 to 2010, the number of occupied housing units increased 4 percent in rural counties and 5 percent in urban counties.

So how can homeownership rates drop while occupied housing units increase? Two words: Rental units.

From 2000 to 2010, the number of renter-occupied housing units increased 11 percent in rural Pennsylvania and 12 percent in urban Pennsylvania. In addition, the "renter rate" in rural Pennsylvania increased from 25 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2010. The urban renter rate increased from 30 percent in 2000 to 32 percent in 2010.

Despite the change in the homeownership and renter rates, the majority of rural and urban Pennsylvanians still live in the homes they own. Of the state's 3.3 million rural residents who do not live in institutionalized housing, 77 percent lived in their own home and 23 percent lived in a rental unit in 2010. Among the state's 8.9 million non-institutionalized urban residents, 72 percent lived in their own home and 28 percent lived in a rental unit.
In 2010, there was an average of 2.5 people living in a rural owner-occupied home and 2.2 people living in a renter-occupied home. In urban counties, the average for owner-occupied units was 2.6 people and for rental units was 2.2 people.

Comparison of Rural Homeowners and Renters, 2005-2009
54 - Median age of a homeowner.
42 - Median age of a renter.
6.5 - Average number of rooms in an owner-occupied home.
4.7 - Average number of rooms in a renter-occupied home.
31 - Percent of homeowners with children (under 18 years old) living in their home.
30 - Percent of renters with children living in their home.
$52,592 - Median household income for homeowners.
$24,747 - Median household income for renters.
85 - Percent of homeowners who live in a single-family, detached house; 9 percent live in a mobile home or trailer and the remainder lives in other types of homes, such as town houses.
32 - Percent of renters who live in a single-family, detached house: 8 percent live in a mobile home or trailer and the remainder lives in other types of homes.
57 - Percent of homeowners who have a mortgage or similar debt; 43 percent do not. Among those with a mortgage, the median monthly payment is $650.
$585 - Gross median monthly rent paid by renters.
Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey, 2005-2009 Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS)

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Chairman's Message
In recent years, prison overcrowding and the continually increasing costs of imprisonment have led states to consider alternative approaches for non-violent offenders to pay for their crimes. One alternative that is gaining ground is specialty courts.

The feature article in this issue of Rural Perspectives highlights recent research conducted at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on the use of specialty courts in rural Pennsylvania.

Of those counties participating in the survey research, the overwhelming response was that specialty courts resulted in savings from reduced jail-days, lower recidivism rates and lower crime costs.

Survey respondents also reported success stories of individuals turning their lives around, gaining meaningful employment and assuming strong parental roles with their families.

The Center is continuing to look at ways in which rural Pennsylvania can effectively deal with crime and its costs by soliciting research proposals on the challenges of rural prisoner re-entry. If a successful proposal is approved by the board, the research will be initiated in early 2012.

In my role as chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, I continue to expand my understanding of how diverse this commonwealth is and how practical, applied research can help to inform me, and the General Assembly, on policy matters that come before us.

Naturally, we are concerned about how decisions of government affect our constituencies. We also recognize, however, that the impacts of our decisions affect people across the commonwealth.

Research, such as that provided by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, raises that level of recognition and helps legislators make better informed decisions on public policy.

I encourage you to use the research and database on Pennsylvania’s rural trends and conditions provided by the Center. These resources help me in my decision-making and support my belief that rural and urban areas have much in common.

Senator Gene Yaw

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Number of Children Decreasing, Number of Seniors Increasing in Rural Pennsylvania
Here’s some old news. There are now more rural Pennsylvania residents who are 40 years old and older than at any other time in the last 60 years. That’s what U.S. Census Bureau data, including the 2010 Census, indicate. And that confirms what most rural Pennsylvanians have been witnessing over the past 50-plus years: an increasingly older population.

To take a closer look at Pennsylvania’s rural population and how it is aging, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania used Census data from 1960 to 2010 and divided the population into three age cohorts: children (persons 0 to 17 years old); working-age adults (persons 18 to 64 years old); and senior citizens (persons 65 years old and older). Following are the results of the analysis.

Children
In 2010, there were 726,417 children in rural Pennsylvania, or 21 percent of the total rural population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of children in rural counties declined 7 percent. The decline affected most rural counties as 42 of Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties experienced a decline. The counties with the largest declines were Cameron, Elk and Sullivan, each with a drop of more than 21 percent.

Over the past 50 years (1960 to 2010), rural Pennsylvania has seen a steady decline in both the number and proportion of residents under 18 years old. In 1960, 1.06 million rural residents, or 35 percent of the rural population, were children. These children were part of the Baby Boom generation, who were born between 1946 and 1964. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Boomers are one of the largest generations in U.S. history.

Pennsylvania’s urban counties also experienced a decline in the number of children over the past decade.

From 2000 to 2010, urban counties had a 3 percent decline in the number of residents under 18 years old. In 2010, there were 2.07 million residents, or 22 percent of the urban population, who were under age 18. 

One reason for the decline in the number of rural children is the decline in the number of births. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, from 2000 to 2009, the number of babies born in rural counties declined 5 percent. For the entire decade, 2000 to 2009, the rural birth rate was 10.5 births for every 1,000 residents. During the 1990s, the rate was 11.5 births per 1,000 residents.

In the immediate future, the number of births in rural Pennsylvania is likely to continue declining. From 2000 to 2010, the number of women in their prime childbearing years (15 to 44) declined 9 percent. 

Urban births, on the other hand, increased 1 percent from 2000 to 2009. During this 10-year period, the urban birth rate was 12.2 births per 1,000 residents.

One of the ripple effects of the declining number of rural children is a drop in school enrollment. From the 1999-2000 school year to the 2008-2009 school year, the number of students enrolled in rural school districts declined 7 percent. Projections by the Pennsylvania Department of Education indicate that enrollment will continue to decline for the next 10 years (2009-2010 to 2018-2019).

Nationwide, in 2010, children made up 24 percent of the nation’s population (74.2 million). Compared to other states, Pennsylvania ranked 43rd in the percent of the population under 18 years old. The states with the highest percentages of children were Utah, Idaho and Texas, and the states with the lowest percentages were West Virginia, Maine and Vermont.

Working-age adults
In 2010, there were 2.16 million working-age adults, or 62 percent of the rural Pennsylvania population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of rural working-age adults increased 5 percent. However, in 14 of Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties, the number of working-age adults declined.

From 1960 to 2010, the number of rural working-age adults increased 30 percent. In 1960, rural residents between 18 and 64 years old comprised 54 percent of the population versus 2010’s 62 percent. 

Among Pennsylvania’s urban counties, there were 5.79 million working-age adults, or 63 percent of the urban population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of urban working-age adults increased 8 percent. 

Not surprisingly, there is a relationship between the percent change in working-age adults and the number of people in the labor force (number of persons working or looking for work). From 2000 to 2010, there was a 6 percent increase in the rural labor force and a 4 percent increase in the urban labor force. 

In both rural and urban Pennsylvania, Baby Boomers, who were age 46 to 64 in 2010, made up much of the working-age adult cohort. In 2010, approximately 47 percent of rural working-age adults and 44 percent of urban working-age adults were Baby Boomers.

Nationwide, there were 194.3 million working-age adults in 2010, or 63 percent of the nation’s population. Pennsylvania ranked 31st among states in the percent of the population aged 18 to 64 years. Alaska, Vermont and Colorado had the highest percentages of working-age adults while Arizona, Idaho and Utah had the lowest percentages.

Senior citizens
In 2010, there were 583,621 senior citizens in rural Pennsylvania, or 17 percent of the rural population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of rural seniors increased 5 percent. Not every rural county had an increase in senior citizens: 14 of Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties had decreases.

From 1960 to 2010, the number of rural senior citizens has steadily increased. In 1960, there were 326,000 rural seniors, or 11 percent of the population. From 1960 to 2010, the number of seniors increased 79 percent.

In Pennsylvania’s urban counties, there were nearly 1.37 million senior citizens, or 15 percent of the urban population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of urban seniors increased 1 percent.

Along with an increase in the number of rural and urban senior citizens was an increase in the number of persons receiving Social Security payments. From December 2000 to December 2009, there was an 11 percent increase in the number of rural residents receiving Social Security benefits and a 6 percent increase in the number of urban residents receiving these benefits.

Nationwide, there were 40.27 million senior citizens, or 13 percent of the total population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of persons age 65 years and older in the U.S. increased 15 percent. Pennsylvania ranked 4th among all states in the percentage of senior citizens. Florida, West Virginia and Maine had the highest percentages of seniors, while Texas, Utah and Alaska had the lowest.

Summing it all up
As the data indicate, Pennsylvania has a population older than most states. While the commonwealth’s residents are not the oldest, the median age of its residents (40.1) is nearly three years older than the national median (37.2). 

Within Pennsylvania, rural counties have proportionally fewer children and more senior citizens than urban counties. The percentages of working-age adults in rural and urban counties are not significantly different. 

Age structure in rural Pennsylvania is, in part, skewed toward older ages due to a long-term decline in the number of births. 

Rural Pennsylvania’s aging population is nothing new. Since 1960, the number of residents under 18 has steadily declined, while the number of residents age 65 and over has steadily increased.

Finally, over the next two decades, rural Pennsylvania will likely continue to see an increase in senior citizens as Baby Boomers continue to age.

Percent of Rural Residents Under 18 Years Old and 65 Years Old and Older, 1960 to 2010

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Number of New Building Permits Increases Statewide
Housing construction in rural Pennsylvania is building up once again. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 6,530 new building permits for private housing units issued in rural counties in 2010, an increase of 15 percent from 2009. In urban counties, there was a 5 percent increase in the number of building permits issued from 2009 to 2010.

Nationwide, in 2010, there were more than 604,600 building permits issued, a 4 percent increase from 2009. However, California, Texas and Washington accounted for 76 percent of this increase. Pennsylvania had the 13th highest percentage increase in building permits between 2009 and 2010.

In Pennsylvania, counties that had 25 or more Marcellus Shale wells drilled had the highest increase in building permits at 20 percent. Other counties had a 6 percent increase.

Counties with high unemployment rates (10 percent or greater in 2010) had only a 4 percent increase in building permits while counties with lower unemployment rates had a 9 percent increase.

The increase in building permits, however, has yet to translate into construction jobs. There was a 2 percent decline in the number of rural construction workers and a 7 percent decline in the number of urban construction workers from the first three quarters of 2009 to the first three quarters of 2010.

From a historical perspective, the 6,530 rural housing permits issued in 2010 were significantly below the 20-year average. From 1990 to 2010, the average number of building permits issued every year in rural Pennsylvania was 11,800.

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Just the Facts: Driving Under the Influence
There are more Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests per capita in rural Pennsylvania than in urban Pennsylvania, according to data from the Pennsylvania State Police.

In 2010, there were 15,874 DUI arrests in rural counties, or 458 arrests for every 100,000 residents. In urban counties, there were 36,444 DUI arrests, or 395 for every 100,000 residents.

From 2005 to 2010, the number of DUI arrests increased 20 percent in rural counties and 13 percent in urban counties.

On average, more males (78 percent) were arrested for DUI than females (22 percent) in rural counties during 2008-2010. Adults accounted for 99 percent of those arrested for DUI while juveniles made up 1 percent of those arrested.  These percentages were much the same in urban counties during the same period.

Counties with the highest average number of DUI arrests during 2008-2010 were Clinton and Wyoming.  Each had more than 620 arrests per 100,000 residents, on average.

The counties with the lowest average number of arrests were Perry and Columbia, each with less than 290 arrests for every 100,000 residents.

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report indicated that, nationwide, there were 1.16 million DUI arrests in 2009, or 380 arrests for every 100,000 residents.

Among the 50 states, Pennsylvania had the 26th highest DUI arrest rate in the nation.

Wyoming and Idaho had the highest DUI arrest rates with more than 790 arrests per 100,000 residents.

Illinois and Delaware had the nation’s lowest DUI arrest rates with less than 100 arrests per 100,000 residents.

Rural counties also had more alcohol-related fatalities per capita than urban counties. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were 646 alcohol-related highway deaths in rural counties, or 6.3 for every 100,000 residents in 2007-2009.  During the same period, urban counties had 3.2 alcohol-related deaths for every 100,000 residents.

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