NJ prison population down 26 percent since 2000, report finds

A new report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice calls New Jersey a national leader in the movement to reduce prison populations.

According to the report, New Jersey cut its prison population by 9.5 percent from 2011 to 2014, second only to Mississippi for the highest percentage decrease.

New Jersey has 26 percent fewer prisoners since 2000, the report said.

Brennan Center senior counsel Lauren Brooke Eisen, who co-authored the report, said the reduction of inmates in state prisons did not lead to an uptick in crime, as some critics of decarceration worry.

“What’s so striking about what happened in New Jersey is that, at the same time, they also reduced their violent crime rate and their property crime rate,” she said.

“What that tells us is that you can decrease incarceration while also decreasing crime.”

Eisen lauded the Garden State for instituting several reforms that helped reduce state prison populations, such as giving judges discretion to sentence low-level drug criminals below the mandatory minimum punishments and making the parole process more efficient.

“They’ve started to reduce the number of [parolees] who are sent back to prison” for technical violations of their parole, Eisen said, “such as missing a drug test or not showing up for a meeting with a parole officer.”

The report also found that, from 2011 to 2014, Pennsylvania’s prison population dropped 2 percent, while Delaware had a 3 percent increase of prisoners.

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