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U.S. adult correctional system population falls to lowest level in nearly a decade

Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that the number of people in the adult correctional systems in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since 2003. The finding is highlighted in a new study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

According to the study, an estimated 6,899,000 persons were under the supervision of adult correctional systems at year end 2013, down from 6,940,500 at year end 2012. The decrease of 41,500 offenders in 2013 resulted in the number of persons under correctional supervision falling below 6.9 million for the first time since 2003.

The Attorney General called the drop a “significant milestone.”

“While we clearly have much more work to do, it is my hope that we are witnessing the start of an overall trend that will continue -- and accelerate -- as our reform efforts take full effect,” the Attorney General said in a video message. “As I have said many times, we cannot incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. That’s why we need to focus on commonsense sentencing reforms and on proven, evidence-based solutions like diversion programs for those convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses.

“We are seeing this approach take root in states across the country, as more and more governors and legislatures recognize that incarceration must be used to punish, deter, and rehabilitate -- not merely to warehouse and forget.  And here in Washington, D.C., I am proud to work with leaders in Congress from both parties to advance this vital conversation and bring about a paradigm shift in the way our nation approaches criminal justice.”

The Attorney General described how, in August 2013, he launched the “Smart on Crime” Initiative, an effort to enhance the way the Justice Department sentences and releases individuals in order to end America’s “overreliance on incarceration” and to promote efforts to help people succeed outside prison.

During the Obama Administration, overall crime has decreased by over 15 percent, while overall incarceration has decreased by nearly 9 percent -- the first time the two indices have simultaneously fallen in more than 40 years, he said.

The full video of the Attorney General’s message is available at http://www.justice.gov/agwa.php.


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