Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States
Date:  07-31-2014

Sentencing Project reports reduction of prison populations averaging 25%, while violent crimes in the states studied also dropped
The Sentencing Project’s executive director Marc Mauer writes: “A new publication from The Sentencing Project examines the potential for substantial prison population reductions. Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States profiles the experiences of three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – that have reduced their prison populations by about 25% while seeing their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average.

Key findings of the report include:

  • New York and New Jersey led the nation by reducing their prison populations by 26% between 1999 and 2012, a period in which the nationwide state prison population rose by 10%.

  • California experienced a 23% reduction in its prison population between 2006 and 2012, in contrast to just a 1% reduction nationally. Recent reforms have reduced the state’s total incarcerated population even while diverting many individuals to county jails.

  • While downsizing their prisons, violent crime rates fell at a greater rate in these three states than they did nationwide. Property crime rates also decreased in New York and New Jersey more than they did nationwide, while California’s reduction was slightly lower than the national average.