After more than thirty years of constant increase, prison populations have leveled off and in the last few years have begun to decline (pdf). It’s a momentous change and Keith Humphreys argues that the story has been under-reported because few people want to play up the good news
(1) Most of the state, local and federal officials who have helped reduce incarceration are scared to publicly take credit for it. In general, reducing incarceration is a good thing, but probability dictates that in particular cases it will be a horrible thing. At least a few of the roughly 100,000 fewer people under correctional supervision in 2011 versus 2010 for example will do something extremely violent and high-profile, and no politician wants to risk being in a story headlined “Convict released by thug-loving governor murders nun”.
Hat tip: Matt Yglesias.