New York Sees Big Drop In Prisoners Since 2000

New York — the state once known for its tough "Rockefeller" drug laws — has dramatically changed course over the last decade, incarcerating 62 percent fewer people for drug violations and driving a sharp decline in its prison population, according to a newspaper analysis.

The Poughkeepsie Journal documents the changes in a story today (October 17).

While 37 states saw their prison populations increase by 10 percent or more between 2000 and 2010 , New York's fell by 22 percent during that time — the steepest decline in the nation, according to the Journal . The decrease is attributable to relaxed penalties for drug violations, but also to an overall decrease in crime that has led to less incarceration.

The paper documents the effects the changes have had on minority imprisonment in New York. Nearly 17,000 fewer minorities are locked up in state facilities today than in 2000, though the paper notes that Hispanics and African-Americans are still disproportionately represented in the prison population.

New York's prison changes are especially noteworthy because, as the Journal notes, it was the sentencing crackdown championed by former governor Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1973 "that helped kick off a massive national prison buildup — and the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world."

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