A report issued today by the Pew Center indicates that the prison population in state prisons decreased slightly, the first decline since 1972. However, to dim the good news a little, an increase in the number of inmates incarcerated in federal prisons has lead to a slight overall increase in the number of people incarcerated in prisons in the United States. Just over 1.4 million people are incarcerated in prison in the United States. The prisoner populations declined in 27 states. The report indicates that not all of the states in which there were declines were due to budget cuts. California is no longer sending inmates back to prison for minor parole violations, Michigan has found ways to release inmates early without endangering the public, Nevada has increased the ways that inmates can earn "good time," and Texas has established programs that serve as an alternative to prison. Still, more Americans are in prison than are working on farms, are on welfare, or in higher education. The incarceration rate of Americans remains five to ten times greater than that of other democracies. Corrections has been the second fastest growing category of state budgets and nearly 90% of that spending has gone to prisons. The costs of running our prisons has quadrupled in the last 20 years.
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