U.S. Incarceration Falls for First Time Since 1972
Drop occurs while crime rates continue to decrease

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time since 1972, the prison population in the United States declined in 2010. This decline in the total prison populations occurred while all categories of violent and property crime decreased in every region of the country. According to Prisoners in 2010, a report issued today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of people held in state and federal facilities decreased by 0.6 percent. This report also noted that “prison releases (708,677) exceeded prison admissions (703,798) for the first time since BJS began collecting jurisdictional data in 1977.”

“Today is an exciting and promising day,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). “Advocates and researchers have long argued that smart on crime policies that decrease the number of people in prisons and jails will yield public safety benefits. Today’s data further proves that we can put fewer people in prisons, improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars.”

In September, JPI, a Washington, D.C.-based research and policy organization, released data analysis on the 2010 FBI Uniform Crime Report noting a 6 percent drop in violent crime and a 2.7 percent drop in property crime across the country.

“These are trends to be celebrated, but there is still more to be done,” added Velázquez. “Incarceration in this country is still alarmingly high. We are glad to see some states making wise fiscal decisions, diverting resources away from incarceration and toward community treatment and re-entry supports for people on parole. But the past year’s successes will be lost if we do not continue our progress. The federal government continues to foolishly devote more resources toward prisons while cutting social services and juvenile justice programs that help put troubled kids back on track. We can’t incarcerate our way to public safety; rather, we need to focus on those policies that improve individual and community well-being.”

Prisoners in 2010 can be found on the BJS website here. For additional information please contact Jason Fenster at (202) 558-7974 x306 or [email protected]. To read JPI’s research on crime, incarceration and government spending, please visit www.justicepolicy.org

The Justice Policy Institute, based in Washington, DC, is working to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system and promote policies that improve the well-being of all people and communities. For more information, please visit www.justicepolicy.org.