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State Prison Populations Drop For First Time In 39 Years

For the first time since 1972, the number of people in state prisons fell. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), state prison populations decreased by nearly 3,000 people between 2008 and 2009. The Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a non-profit research and policy organization dedicated to reducing society’s reliance on incarceration, believes that while this is a move in the right direction, an overall increase in the number of people in prison over the past year, and the fact that half the states continue to increase their prison populations, means we still have a long way to go.

 

“The economic downturn has made both policymakers and taxpayers more aware of the financial price of incarceration,” stated Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI.  “We hope that as the economy improves, we will see states continue to use smart, effective public safety strategies that reduce the unnecessary warehousing of millions of people in prisons and jails.”

 

JPI’s analysis of the BJS data also revealed that only six states reduced their prison populations since 2000: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Delaware and Illinois. Velázquez noted that a number of these states have been engaged in justice reforms that focus on reducing incarceration rates. 

 

“New York’s revision of the Rockefeller drug laws, New Jersey’s focus on reducing returns to prison for parole violations and its increase in treatment and diversion, Maryland’s improved use of evidence-based practices such as risk assessments and Michigan’s reforms to parole and investments in re-entry all demonstrate that intentional efforts to create smart policy, improve outcomes and reduce incarceration pay off,” stated Velázquez. “These sustained reductions are not a matter of chance.”

 

JPI recently released a number of briefs providing guidance to policymakers on how to continue to lower incarceration rates in ways that protect public safety. For Immediate Release, The Costs of Confinement, Pruning Prisons and other relevant reports can be found at www.justicepolicy.org.

 

 

Location

Prisoners on 12/31/2000

Prisoners on 12/31/2008

Prisoners on 12/31/2009

% change, 2008-2009

Overall change,

2000 - 2009

U.S. Total/a

1,391,261

1,609,759

1,613,656

0.2

16.0%

Federal Prisons

145,416

201,280

208,118

3.4

43.1%

State Prisons

1,245,845

1,408,479

1,405,538

-0.2

12.8%

           

New York

70,199

60,347

58,687

-2.8

-16.4%

New Jersey

29,784

25,953

25,382

-2.2

-14.8%

Maryland

23,538

23,324

22,255

-4.6

-5.5%

Michigan

47,718

48,738

45,478

-6.7

-4.7%

Delaware/a

6,921

7,075

6,794

-4

-1.8%

Illinois

45,281

45,474

45,161

-0.7

-0.3%

Texas

166,719

172,506



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