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October 13, 2015

Report: Incarceration down in Pa. and NJ

Study highlights criminal justice reform in both states

A new report released Monday concerning mass incarceration in the United States shows that the prison populations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have dropped in recent years.

The report from the New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, entitled The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, highlights changes in crime and imprisonment in all 50 states and calls for action on reducing both.

It found that from 2011-2014, the prison population dropped by 2 percent in Pennsylvania and 9 percent in New Jersey.

In Pennsylvania, the report points out former Governor Tom Corbett's 2013 policy that cancelled the state's Department of Corrections contracts with half-way houses and rebid them based on their ability to reduce recidivism levels of inmates who had just been released.

The policy, according to the center, dropped the rate of those returning by 11 percent.

The report also details how more flexible sentencing for low-level drug offenders and altering the parole process in New Jersey has aided in reducing not only incarceration but crime by 20 percent as well.

In their conclusion, the authors call for a federal program to reward states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey for actions that have created "incremental" progress in criminal justice reform.