Decarceration Strategies: How 5 States Achieved Substantial Prison Population Reductions
This report, published by the USA based Sentencing Project, examines the experience of five US states – Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and South Carolina – that have achieved prison population reductions of 14-25%. This produced a cumulative total of 23,646 fewer people in prison with no adverse effects on public safety.
This report seeks to inform stakeholders in other states of the range of policy options available to them for significantly reducing their prison population. While we provide some assessment of the political environment which contributed to these changes, we do not go into great detail in this area since stakeholders will need to make their own determinations of strategy based on the particularities of their state. We note, though, that the leaders of reform varied among states, and emerged among governors, legislators, criminal justice officials, and advocacy organizations, often benefiting from media coverage and editorial support.
The prison population reductions in these five states were achieved through data-driven policy reforms that pursued bipartisan consensus. Changes were advanced in the areas of risk and needs assessment, community supervision, alternatives to incarceration, sentencing and sanctions, prison release mechanisms, prisoner reentry and community reintegration.