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U.S: State Prison Population Declines for First Time in 38 Years

20th April 2010

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the number of state prisoners in the United States has declined.

Survey data compiled by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators, indicate that as of January 1, 2010, there were 1,404,053 persons under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities, 4,777 (0.3 percent) fewer than there were on December 31, 2008. This marks the first year-to-year drop in the state prison population since 1972.

[...] While the overall state prison population has declined, the Pew survey revealed great variation among the states. In 26 states, the population dropped, with some posting substantial reductions. Meanwhile, the number of prisoners continued to grow in the other 24 states, several with significant increases.

[…] The tremendous variation among growth rates in the states shines a bright light on the role that state policy plays in determining the size and cost of the prison system.

[...]…an important contributor is that states began to realize they could effectively reduce their prison populations, and save public funds, without sacrificing public safety. In the past few years, several states, including those with the largest population declines, have enacted reforms designed to get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars.

Download the full report here.

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