New PEW Report Shows State Prison Population Drops for First Time in Nearly Four Decades

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Factors including advances in supervision technology and behavior-change science are credited with the decline, according to the recently released “Prison Count 2010” PEW Center on the States report. The state prison population declined .4 percent in 2009--the first drop in state population figures since 1972.

According to the recently released “Prison Count 2010” PEW Center on the States report, the state prison population declined .4 percent in 2009. While the drop is small, it is the first drop in state population figures since 1972 and shows a trend over the last few years of reduced prison inmate counts. Among several reasons cited for the drop are advances in technology and programs that are delivered in the community, including offender supervision tools such as GPS tracking and evidence-based reentry programs that include cognitive behavioral treatment.

"This is an encouraging trend for states. We partner with correctional agencies at the federal, state and local levels to provide sophisticated offender supervision technology and community-based treatment and training programs that are part of a smart solution to reduce costs and recidivism while enhancing overall community safety,” said Bruce Thacher, BI Incorporated CEO and president. “This trend is not a surprise to us as we are increasingly being sought for our wide range of offender supervision tools and community-based treatment programs.”

Along with demographic changes in the general population, the Pew Center on the States’ report attributes the decline to changes in corrections policy and practice, including:

  •     Advances in supervision technology in community corrections. Technologies have matured and are increasingly being sought out by correctional agencies to support their supervision efforts.
  •     Advances in the science of behavior change, including programs such as MRT® that BI uses in day reporting programs.
  •     Increased accuracy of risk assessments to identify factors that lead to criminal behavior
  •     Increased support for prison alternatives from general public
  •     Increased focus on cost-benefit analysis and program quality
  •     Budget limitations

Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, credited a part of the overall drop to the realization by state officials that they can cut their prison populations while protecting public safety. “The political and policy environment has changed drastically. There’s now a realization on both sides of the aisle that there are research-based strategies to protect public safety and hold offenders accountable without sinking ever more public dollars into prisons,” he said in the report.

Advanced technologies, such as the BI ExacuTrack® GPS tracking systems and the BI TAD™ continuous alcohol monitoring system, provide detailed and reliable reports of offenders’ location and activities throughout the day, allowing supervising officers to manage larger caseloads more efficiently without compromising public safety. This increased capacity has supported reduced prison populations. In addition, more correctional agencies, especially during the current economic environment, are including offender payment options to their programs, whereby offenders on systems like electronic monitoring, GPS tracking or alcohol monitoring pay for all or a portion of the service.

Moreover, programs centered on evidence-based practices that reduce recidivism, such as the supervision, treatment and training delivered at BI’s day reporting centers, do so by changing criminal thinking, reinforcing positive behavior and holding offenders accountable.

Given these advances in technology and programming, paired with greater acceptance of alternative sentencing options and shrinking corrections budgets, the report concludes that these findings may mark the beginning of continued state prison population declines. The full report is available at

About BI Incorporated (
Established in 1978, BI Incorporated is the leading technology, treatment and supervision company in community corrections today. BI contracts with approximately 900 governmental agencies nationwide, supporting them with a full continuum of intensive supervision technologies and community-based cognitive behavioral reentry programs for adult and juvenile offenders. BI’s ISO-certified national monitoring center, owned and operated by BI, provides 24/7 expert support supervision services exclusively for governmental agencies. BI works closely with local public corrections officials to cost effectively reduce recidivism, promote public safety, and strengthen the communities it serves using evidence-based practices in a community setting.


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Monica Hook, BI Communications Director
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