“It is far too early, as a matter of law, of policy, and of fact, to be talking about a ‘plummeting’ prison rate in the United States or to be declaring that the end is in sight in the war to change the nation's disastrous incarceration policies,” write Andrew Cohen and Oliver Roeder for the Brennan Center for Justice. An analysis of the data “ought to shatter the myth that America has turned a corner on mass incarceration,” say Cohen and Roeder. The truth is that many states continue to experience more incarceration than before, the drop in national incarceration rates is modest, and the trend toward reform could easily stop or turn back around on itself.
The incarceration rate is decreasing, but not by much. It's down 5.5 percent since its 2007 peak. Since 2001, it's up 1.6 percent. An unscientific word for this trend would be “flat.” As for individual states, experiences over the past decade have varied greatly. Since 2001, West Virginia's incarceration rate has increased almost 63 percent , while California's has dropped over 23 percent. These are the biggest increases and decreases, respectively.