Pennsylvania is one tough state.

Violent offenders in the commonwealth receive the second-longest jail terms among state and federal prisons in the United States.

Yet, the state also ranks 13th in the United States with more offenders in the community - on probation or parole - than the national average.

That's what researchers found in the annual study on corrections, titled "One in 31: the Long Reach of American Corrections," according to Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States.

The 45-page report and its 51-page appendix examine the costs of 7.3 million offenders in state and federal prisons, and on probation and parole in all 50 states, and suggest ways to cut not just crime but also spending, which increased by 300 percent in 20 years.

The report's main focus is how to save money by funding stronger supervision for low-risk, non-violent offenders in the community - as opposed to prison - and it provides case studies of programs that work.

In Pennsylvania, one in 28 residents is under correctional control - either behind bars or under probation or parole - which is slightly more than the national average of one in 31 Americans.

Pennsylvania spends $1.84 billion on corrections, or 6.7 percent of its budget in fiscal year 2008.

One day in prison costs $97.72, while the same amount would fund 12 days of parole, or 54 days' probation, the study found.

Gelb said that Pennsylvania had "an anemic investment in probation."

While acknowledging that probation and parole agencies are understaffed and underfunded, and often delay pursuing violations until prison becomes likely, the study suggested that the agencies needed more graduated sanctions.

These might include: community service programs, day reporting centers, secure treatment facilities and short trips back to jail - without a trip to court.

But Gelb said that Pennsylvania could save more money on the "front end" of corrections by having alternatives to prison that could impact recidivism.

The study suggests that states could sort offenders by risk to public safety to determine the proper level of supervision.

Citing Virginia's risk-assessment factors for felony, theft, fraud and drug offenders, the study found that 1,400 offenders were placed in community corrections instead of prison. Higher-risk offenders could double or triple their terms in prison.

Gelb, nevertheless, credited Pennsylvania with passing "one of the smartest and toughest package of [corrections] reforms" last fall.

Sponsored by House Speaker Dennis O'Brien and 44 others, the legislation signed last Sept. 25 by Gov. Rendell provided inmates with incentives to complete risk-reduction programs in prison so that they could reduce the length of their sentences, said Gelb.

And once out in the community, the offender can earn less time on probation and parole, he added.

The new provisions resulted in plans to build four prisons instead of five, said Gelb. *