In three states where criminal justice reforms have led to reductions in prison populations the decline has been steepest for black and Hispanic inmates, according to a brief released by the Council of State Governments.
The brief examines prison data from Connecticut, North Carolina and Georgia, states where bipartisan groups of policymakers passed reforms designed to combat mass incarceration.
Connecticut's overall prison population declined 17 percent between 2008 and 2015; its black and Hispanic prison populations dropped 21 percent and 23 percent, while its white prison population declined by 6 percent.
During that time, the state invested in reentry services and a diversion program for individuals with mental disorders, improved its risk assessment process and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
North Carolina's overall prison population declined 8 percent between 2011 and 2014; its black and Hispanic prison populations dropped 12 percent and 16 percent, while its white prison population declined by 1 percent. Admissions to prison among black and Hispanic defendants also declined by 26 percent and 37 percent during that time period, while admissions of white defendants declined by 15 percent.
“In June 2011, with broad, bipartisan support, North Carolina legislators passed comprehensive legislation that established incentives for people sentenced to prison to participate in programs that would help to reduce their likelihood of reoffending,” researchers wrote.
The legislation also increased access to treatment for those with substance abuse problems, and expanded the ability of probation and parole officers to respond to violations of supervision.
Georgia's total prison population decreased by 3 percent between 2012 and 2014; its black prison population dropped 4 percent, while its white prison population declined 1 percent. Admissions to prison among black defendants also declined by 11 percent during that time period, while admissions of white defendants actually increased by 0.4 percent.
Legislation passed in 2012 in Georgia, “modified penalties for certain offenses, enabled probation officers to impose graduated sanctions, and required the Department of Corrections to collect, analyze, and report on performance outcomes,” according to the brief.
Read the brief HERE.