Bucking a national trend, New Jersey’s prison population has dropped 14 percent since an all-time high of 31,300 in 1999, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The decline is largely due to a sharp drop in parole violators sent back to prison and a substantial increase in paroles. After years of hard-line policies on lawbreakers, New Jersey is following a more measured course, state officials say. “In most of the late ’80s and the ’90s, it was a law-and-order approach of ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key,’ ” said John D’Amico Jr., chairman of the New Jersey State Parole Board and a retired judge. “hose policies “were not effective and not fiscally responsible.”
In Pennsylvania, the number of state inmates continues to swell. For the first time ever, the number topped 41,000 in February. Having fewer inmates in New Jersey has not made running the Department of Corrections any cheaper. The cost to maintain the prison system and pay other custody expenses has grown nearly 16 percent in six years, from $810.3 million in fiscal 1999 to $939.6 million in 2005. Much of the increase was due to rising payroll expenses, health-care costs for inmates, and new programs like a post-incarceration program for sex offenders, said assistant Corrections Commissioner Peter Roselli.