For the first time in nearly 40 years, the number of state prisoners in the United States has declined, according to Prison Count 2010, a new survey by the Pew Center on the States. As of January 2010, there were 1,404,053* persons under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities, 4,777* fewer than on December 31, 2008. This marks the first year-to-year drop in the nation's state prison population since 1972. While the study showed an overall decline, it revealed great variation among jurisdictions. The prison population declined in 26* states, while increasing in 24* states and in the federal system.
In the past few years, several states have enacted reforms designed to get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars. These strategies included:
• Diverting low-level offenders and probation and parole violators from prison
• Strengthening community supervision and re-entry programs
• Accelerating the release of low-risk inmates who complete risk reduction programs
*Numbers updated as of April 1,2010 (PDF) (Report originally released March 17, 2010) - Prison Count 2010 Errata (PDF)
A link to the full report is below. Also read the related press release Pew Survey Shows State Prison Population Dropped in 2009.