In 2011, 26 states had decreases in their prison population totaling 28,582 prisoners. California’s decline of 15,493 prisoners accounted for more than half of the total decrease (see text box on page 4). New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Florida, and Texas had decreases of more than 1,000 prisoners, and Connecticut and North Carolina had declines of more than 900.Here's the official press release. This is the second consecutive year BJS reported a national, overall, decline in the total US prison population, though with California's rapid de-incarceration, that aspect of the report is perhaps unsurprising. Texas now has the largest prison population in the United States, said the BJS, with 172,224 prisoners at the end of 2011 compared to 149,569 in California, a state whose population is half again the size of Texas. (Next comes Florida, with 103,055 prisoners, then Georgia and New York, with just under 56,000 each.
California’s prison population declined by 9.4% in 2011, which was the largest percent change among the 51 jurisdictions. New Hampshire (5.3%), Connecticut (5.2%), and New Jersey (4.7%) experienced declines of about 5%.
Digging into the numbers a bit, though, what's happening is more complex, and more fundamental, than just the court-ordered decline in Golden State prisoners. Even with California's forced de-incarceration, the total number of releases from prison declined overall at state and federal prisons last year, according to BJS. But the number of admissions, particularly into state prisons, declined even more. "The 668,800 admissions into state or federal prison in 2011 was the lowest number of admissions since 2002."
Notably, said BJS, "Texas (18,603 inmates) and Florida (11,827 inmates) had the highest number of inmates in private prisons."
Here's a tidbit I didn't know: "More than 50% of all prisoners housed in local jails in 2011 were serving time in Louisiana, Texas, or Tennessee," though that's in part because "Louisiana incarcerated more than half (20,866) of its prison population in local jails," a process that was described in detail in an excellent New Orleans Times Picayune series. Still, that puts Texas among the states with the highest local jail incarceration rates.
RELATED: See from the Philadelphia Tribune, "$337 million in savings: States closing prisons as inmates decline."