The NY Times reports that the US correctional population decreased in 2015 to the lowest level since 2002, while the overall crime rate continued to drop. (Data for 2016 will not be available until next year). The decline is attributable to the federal prison system releasing thousands of nonviolent drug offenders and states reducing prison populations as a cost-saving measure.
In California, for example, Proposition 47 — approved by voters in 2014 — retroactively reduced some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Other states have offered expanded substance abuse treatment programs, established specialty courts and spent more money on re-entry programs aimed at reducing recidivism.
According to Pew research, while the nation’s imprisonment rate fell by more than 8 percent from 2010 to 2015, violent and property crimes dropped a combined 14.6 percent. In the 10 states with the largest declines in imprisonment (including California, Texas and New Jersey), crime fell by an average of 14.4 percent.