A drop in Connecticut’s prison population is the largest in the country and is evidence that the state is getting smart on crime, say state officials quoted by the Hartford Courant. The number of inmates in the state’s prisons dropped by 4.2 percent, from 20,720 in 2002 to 19,846 at the end of 2003. The current population is about 18,700. The decrease seems to be the result of a collaborative effort to reduce the number of non-violent pre-sentenced inmates behind bars. State Rep. Michael Lawlor said the drop is evidence that those initiatives are beginning to pay dividends.
Lawlor said the state found that because of a staffing shortage, probation officers have larger caseloads and less time to spend on individual offenders. Offenders are sent to prison for technical violations such as missing a meeting with a probation officer or failing a drug test. Many offenders were being sent to prison because of a shortage of drug treatment and mental health beds. “So if you just change those realities, then the numbers will change,” Lawlor said. The state has hired more probation officers and increased the number of treatment beds available to offenders. Lawlor said the initiatives have protected the public, reduced the inmate population and the cost of running the prison system, and created better outcomes for offenders without simply letting inmates out of prison.