Pew report finds prison populations ebb

    The age of the ever-expanding prison populations may be coming coming to an end. A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows declines for the first time in 30 years — including in Philadelphia.

    For three decades, most cities have seen an increase each year in their average daily prison populations. But in 2009, that trend has reversed in places such as Philadelphia.

    Clair Shubik-Richards, who wrote the Pew report, said the reversal comes after decades of expanding populations. 

    But “even in places where there’s been a decline, the population is still really high,” said Shubik-Richards. “So in Philadelphia, the decrease in population has gotten the population down to what it was in 2005 and it’s still over capacity,   it’s still 30 percent higher than it was 10 years ago.”

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    Shubik-Richards said Friday it’s too early to tell whether the prison populations will continue to decrease. But she said criminal justice systems across the country are making policy changes to reduce the number of inmates.

    The report also shows cities are starting to spend less on prisons. Philadelphia recently cut $6 million  from its prison budget.

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