Criminal Justice Reform
The largest percentage of the County's budget is allocated for corrections. Nearly 30% of county tax dollars are dedicated to the operations of Centre County's Correctional Facility and Probation & Parole Office.
Commissioner Pipe believes that together we can make Centre County a safer community by reforming the criminal justice system. Almost all of the individuals sentenced to incarceration at Centre County's Correctional Facility will return to the community after completing their sentences.
In 2014, the Centre County Re-Entry Coalition was formed to identify new strategies and programs to successfully return incarcerated citizens to the community. As co-chair of that group, Commissioner Pipe has participated in and encouraged dialogue and collaboration to reform the criminal justice system in Centre County. This effort wouldn't be possible without the more than thirty coalition participants and the terrific County staff.
Some of the outcomes and products of the coalition are:
- Creation of a Strategic Re-Entry Plan.
- Resource guide for returning citizens.
- Participation in a Mental Health Cross System Mapping (CSM) project facilitated by the PA Center for Excellence. The focus of the project is to identify ways to divert individuals with mental health illness from entering the criminal justice system and improve gaps within the system. Centre County was the 39th County in PA to go through the CSM process.
- Fostering collaboration between the Centre County Crisis Intervention Team and other community partners (e.g., Pennsylvania Department of Correction, Mount Nittany Community Medical Center).
- Providing better employment opportunities to returning citizens through ongoing implementation of the WorkKeys program.
As chair of the Centre County Prison Board of Inspectors, Commissioner Pipe has added more correctional officers to improve the safety and security of the facility and staff.
On the board Commissioner Pipe has focused on:
- Improving the treatment resources at the county facility through the addition of two counselors to provide better opportunities to returning citizens. Increased participation in counseling may reduce the likelihood that incarcerated individuals will re-offend and return to the criminal justice system, thereby saving taxpayer funds and making our community safer.
- Reducing recidivism by providing support and assistance to individuals released from prison. These individuals often face challenges gaining employment, securing housing, accessing mental health services, receiving drug and alcohol treatment services, finding reliable transportation, among many other issues. When we decrease the impact of these obstacles, the citizen's transition to their community is more successful, and they are more likely to contribute as productive members of society.
As Commissioner, Mike has made it a priority to increase transparency in county government through a number of initiatives since his election in 2011. They include:
- Redesigning the centrecountypa.gov website, making information easily accessible to citizens, saving them a trip to county office building.
- Personally attending as many meetings in community as possible.
- Making county government more accessible by holding work sessions throughout the county during the Centre Crest deliberations and decisions.
- Being the first Centre County commissioner to engage with constituents using social media.
Mike is committed to continuing to reform county government. Since winning re-election, Mike has:
- Released more information about the county budget and financial decisions.
- Held more public work sessions for commissioners.
- Enacted ethics reforms by banning politicking in the workplace (such as circulating candidate petitions during work hours and in County offices).
Mike believes that voter participation is critical to holding government accountable. As Commissioner, Mike is constantly looking for ways to provide more opportunities for people to exercise their right to vote.
In 2017, Mike served as a member of the Advisory Board of the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commissions’ study of the issue of voting system technology initiated by Senate Resolution 394.
Mike has served on the Centre County Board of Elections. The board is responsible for supervising all 91 precincts in Centre County, preparing ballots, as well as overseeing election workers and polling locations for the primary and general elections.
Through his service on the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Election Reform Committee, Mike is examining possible opportunities to increase voter participation. These include:
Online Voter Registration
- - Saves taxpayers by avoiding overtime and additional staff to process paper voter registration during peak times
- - Reduces errors in forms
- - More accurate verification
- - Preserves the integrity of the voter's information
- - Eases initial registration and updates to information for voters
- - Already implemented in 21 states
Update: In August 2015, Gov. Wolf announced that Pennsylvania will now be accepting voter registrations online. To register to vote, or to update a current Pennsylvania registration please visit register.VotesPA.com.
No-Fault Absentee Ballots & Early Voting
- - No-fault absentee ballots allow anyone to vote by mail-in ballot, regardless of reason
- - Help shorten lines on Election Day
- - Create more flexibility for when you can vote
- - Increase voter participation
Commissioner Pipe serves on a variety of boards within County Government, including:
- Board of Commissioners, Chair (2016-Present), Minority Commissioner (2012-2016)
- Salary Board, Chair (2016-Present), Member (2012-Present)
- Retirement Board, Chair (2016-Present), Member (2012-Present)
- Prison Board, Chair (2016-Present), Vice-Chair (2012-Present)
- Elections Board, Member (2016), Vice-Chair (2012-2014)
- Employment Benefits Trust, Member (2016-Present), Chairman (2012-2015)
- Board of Assessment, Member (2016-Present), Chairman (2012-2015)
- Finance Committee, Member (2012-Present)
Criminal Justice Advisory Board, Member (2012-Present)
- Re-Entry Coalition, Chair (2015-Present)
- Local Emergency Planning Council, Member (2012-Present)
- Records Improvement Committee, Member (2012-Present)
Several organizations invite the Commissioners to appoint a member to serve on their boards. Commissioner Pipe's service on the BIACC, the CCMPO, and C-NET allows him to focus on small-town economic development, improving access to government and transportation projects.
- Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) - Coordinating Committee, Member (2017-Present), Vice-Chair (2012-2017)
- C-NET, Board of Directors (2012-Present)
- Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce (BIACC) (2012-2015)
Other groups within and outside of County Government invite the Commissioners to send a representative to their meetings. Commissioner Pipe's interest in education, human services, emergency services and agricultural issues attracted him to serve as a liaison to the following groups:
- Children & Youth Services Advisory Board (2012-Present)
- Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention (MH/ID/EI) Advisory Board (2012-Present)
- Centre County Fire Chiefs Association (2012-Present)
- Centre County Cooperative Extension, Council (formerly Board of Directors) (2012-Present)
- Agricultural Land Preservation Board (2012-2015)
Commissioner Pipe is actively involved with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and the National Association of Counties (NACo). CCAP is an organization that enhances counties' abilities to share best practices, lobby the Governor and General Assembly of Pennsylvania for funding and needed changes in regulations, and educate citizens about the importance of county government. NACo acts in a similar role to fight for counties in Washington. Commissioner Pipe serves or has served on the following CCAP committees:
- Elections Reform Committee, Co-Chair (2016-Present), Member (2014-Present)
- Community & Economic Development Committee, Member (2012-2015); Vice-Chair (2015)
Commissioner Pipe serves on the following NACo committee:
- Justice and Public Safety, Member (2016-Present)
Finally, Commissioner Pipe is a graduate of Leadership Centre County ('14) and a graduate of NACo’s County Leadership Institute (’15). LCC is a program that enables citizens to learn about Centre County's history, environment, arts & culture, economy, and residents. He currently serves on the "Government Day" committee which helps to organize and prepare for the program day that focuses on government.