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Prison population down 8 percent since pandemic began

Photo of a cell block in an Oklahoma prison
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. prison population has dropped 8 percent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis published Thursday by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press.

More than 100,000 inmates were released from state and federal prisons between March and June. The declines ranged from 2 percent of the prison population in Virginia to 32 percent in Rhode Island.

The 8 percent drop over several months compares with a 2.2 percent decline for all of 2019, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

But the decline wasn’t driven primarily by steps to release inmates at risk of contracting COVID-19. Instead, the drop was mostly caused by the delays in the criminal justice system, the AP reported.

Martin Horn, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former corrections commissioner for New York City, told the news wire that the pandemic has slowed the entire criminal justice system.

Many prisons are not accepting new inmates as a way to help cut down on COVID-19 transmissions. Additionally, court closures have resulted in fewer felons receiving sentences. Parole officers are also sending fewer people back to prison for low-level offenses.

Tags Coronavirus Courts COVID-19 criminal justice system felons inmates Jail Pandemic Prison

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