Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States


Downsizing Prisons is a collaborative research effort between Justice Strategies and The Sentencing Project that examines four states – Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York -- that have moved against the growth trend in state prison populations of 12% since 2000. These states achieved significant declines in prison populations and offer lessons to policymakers in other states. These states saw prison population declines of:

  • Twenty percent (20%) in New York, from 1999 to 2009;
  • Twelve percent (12%) in Michigan, from 2006 to 2009;
  • Nineteen percent (19%) in New Jersey, from 1999 to 2009;
  • And, five percent (5%) in Kansas, from 2003 to 2009.

Downsizing Prisons describes pragmatic reforms and policies that have helped to produce these prison population reductions. These reductions came about through conscious efforts to change policies and practices, different types of reform initiatives that improved criminal justice systems, and the twin goals of reducing the prison population and promoting cost-effective approaches to public safety.