Size of Philadelphia government?

Here's a fairly simple question w/major implications: how many people are currently employed by the City of Philadelphia? What is the ratio of city employees to city residents, and has this ratio changed since the 1950s?

This has been alluded to elsewhere, but much of the City's infrastructure configured based on a city w/2,000,000 residents, rather than the ~1,500,000 residents currently living in Philadelphia. If we're still employing people to service 500,000 more residents than actually exist, it suggests an obvious place to cut costs.

Of course, when you talk about cutting jobs, that brings union contracts into the discussion. And whose ox gets gored, so to speak.

Thoughts? Does anyone have some hard numbers on this?


Local jails are the biggest culprit

Lieterally if you were to pick one department of city government where employment has ballooned out of control while over all population has reduced, its the city jails. And a huge chunk of the people we are holding are awaiting trial but can't afford bail. Its ridiculous. If you moved heavily to drug courts and day reporting for non-violent offenses the budget situation would improve dramatically.
MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

Local jails are the biggest culprit

you're right.

judges are big culprits in jail overcrowding and subsequently overfunded as well.

And the state not picking up the tab for courts makes it worse

as does misdirecting of prosecutorial resources. Big showy but legally questionable murder trials are not necessarily the best way to get the biggest bang from the public's safety buck in the DA's office - which in turn increases trial delays - which increases the number of people sitting in local jail just waiting for trial to the tune of about $90 a day a head, sometimes for upwards of 6 months. A collossal waste of resources that might be used more profitably at what one might call the "prevention" end.
MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.


OK, let's take as a given that there are too many jails; as a country, the US incarcerates a ridiculously high number of people. But I highly doubt that jails are the only place in which Philadelphia's governmental structure and expenses are more appropriate for a city of 2,000,000 people rather than one of 1,500,000.

Clearly, the City can downsize via attrition, as this would raise the fewest objections. But where, more specifically, can it downsize? Aside from jails, I mean.

I'm sure that some participants on this board- Councilmen Goode + Green, as well as Rep. Cohen for instance- have some useful insights into this matter.


You are understating

You are understating the specific problem Philadelphia has with prison spending.

There's certainly been a national expansion in the number of incarcerated people, and our numbers are consistent with that.

But two unique features: we are under court order to fix the overcrowding, and we have a very high number of people incarcerated before trial (because they can not afford bail) and there for low-level nonviolent drug offences--and therefore are good candidates for alternative sentencing.

The poster above was right that judges are part of the problem; it's really a problem of coordination and will among the courts, prison commission, and city government.

So unlike the national problem in a few ways--which is tied in some measure to federal and state minimum sentencing laws--we can make some changes here, and should, fast. It's a lot of money we are talking about.

Letter to the editor

from Angus Love of the PA Institutional Law Project:

What about jails?

I am encouraged to see Mayor Nutter tackling the city's financial crisis head on with a combination of spending cuts, including layoffs, furloughs, salary reductions, and cuts in services. But some cuts - such as closing libraries and reducing funding for the Community College - could have longer-term consequences than others.
One area that hasn't been affected by cuts is the ever-growing prison system. We already have an incarceration rate higher than any other major city. Perhaps a reexamination of the policies that led to this should be included in this debate. One is the so-called war on drugs. Criminalizing drug addiction doesn't appear to be lessening the drug problem, but does shift a significant amount of dollars from worthy city services to lock up junkies. Perhaps treatment would be a more efficient, less costly alternative.

Angus Love

One major problem

Stipulated: decriminalizing certain drugs would reduce the rate of incarceration, and thereby enable the City to spend less on prisons. This is, unfortunately, irrelevant, as the City can no more set its own drug laws than it could set its own drinking age. As long as criminalization is the law of the US as a whole- or, at least, the law of PA as a whole- then the City is obligated to incarcerate drug users.

You don't get to pick + choose those laws which you obey; laws are, by definition, not optional.

Sorry 'bout that,

Decriminalizing is long shot politically

That's not what we are talking about. We are talking about incarceration alternatives for low-income, non-violent drug offenses that clog up the courts and drain our cities budget for months to house, clothe and feed people who could be better served anyway, still working on the outside, still supporting themselves and their family members while completing programs that have lower recidivism rates than time in county jail does.

Decriminalizing drugs enjoys the poltical currency of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich i.e. not much, for better of worse. The type of stuff I'm talking about was supported by folks as politically "fringey" and extreme as Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Its a huge giant problem for Philadelphia in particular with proven solutions that even freakin' PICA has underscored as a particular budget problem for Philadelphia.
MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.


We are talking about two areas of reform:

1. Pretrial detention, the reform of which is a clear human rights issue (the only difference between those in jail and those out on bail is the ability to pay) as well as a fiscal one. Since they can't pay bail, we as a city/county are paying for them to sit in jail before even being tried for the crime of which they've been charged.

2. Sentencing alternatives for nonviolent low-level drug crimes. This is something where there is discretion at the level of policy (be it the DA, or the courts). And it makes clear fiscal sense to have people subject to home monitoring and rehab requirements as opposed to being fed, housed, and clothed by the city/county.

And they are related

in that a large proportion of the backup from #2 is part (but not all) of the problem with #1

I liked this Radio Times with former Philly Prison commissioner Leon King and David Rudovsky as an overview of the local pre-trial overcrowding issue.

MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

This website is hitting a record

I am sure, for linking a single Radio Times show.


Potential savings #1

OK, we're all in agreement: incarcerate fewer non-violent drug offenders. Stipulated, that would be a great way to reduce the prison population and, therefore, cut the city's prison expenses. In addition, if the Commonwealth would pick up the cost for Philadelphia County's jails the same way they do for ever other county, that would help too.

But that can hardly be the only way in which the City government is more suited in size to a city w/2,000,000 people than to a city w/1,500,000 people. Surely, there are other departments which can be cut- perhaps through attrition- to reduce the size of the government.

We have some insiders here: let's think about this and make some real suggestions.

In terms of efficiencies

I really think 311 and more than the call center, the CitiStat function, the tracking of call data to performance by individual departments and even individual sub departments and managers, can't come soon enough. I realize this is right around the corner and that good folks, even good folks who you used to post on here, are working on this but its really, really unfortunate that the Mack Truck of a global economic slowdown decided to slam into us right before we had that data to make more, ahem, surgical cuts inside city bureaucracy from a data-based set of criteria.

MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

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