Pennsylvania state prisons housed 454 fewer inmates at the end of 2012 than they did one year earlier, the largest decrease and only the third yearly population decline in the past 40 years, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. State corrections officials attribute the drop to several factors: fewer people sent to prison; more parole interviews taking place as scheduled; and quicker processing for inmates with short minimum sentences so they can complete requirements in time for release.
Corrections has consumed more state dollars in recent decades as both the prison population and the cost of keeping an inmate have ballooned. State officials say the average annual tab for housing a prisoner is now $34,700. Until last year, the only other declines in prison population since 1971 occurred between 1978 and 1979 (by 21 inmates) and from 2009 and 2010 (by 166). Officials with the agency, which is responsible for state prisoners, said it ended 2012 with 51,184 inmates. Meanwhile, the parole rolls swelled by more than 1,800, from 35,083 in November 2011 to 36,961 one year later. It costs about $3,000 a year to keep someone on parole.