The number of inmates in state prisons is on the decline, which is right in line with a national trend. In the United States, the prison population dropped for a third straight year in 2012. “At its height in 1999, there were 31,000 state sentenced inmates here in New Jersey.  As of January 2013, there were 23,000," said Deirdre Fedkenheuer, spokesperson for the State Department of Corrections.

What is attributing to the decline?

Drug courts, which keep non-violent drug offenders out of prison, play a part. Inmates also are spending less time in county jails, so they begin their transitioning and their programming almost immediately upon entering state prison.

“Nearly four years ago, there was an average of 1,500 state sentenced inmates who were housed in the counties. Today, there are only about 200 who are there at any given time. So, they come into us sooner and they begin their transition back into society sooner,” said Fedkenheuer.

The rate of recidivism among prisoners is also on the decline.

“Through legislation and incentives, we are emphasizing educational and transitional services to inmates, so that they don’t recidivate and come back to us,” said Fedkenheuer.

She added, “Recidivism causes the prison population to rise which is why we work very closely with the Department of Labor so that our training reflects the needs of the community as far as jobs go. Our social services department works with federal and state agencies to provide copies of social security cards, motor vehicle identification and birth certificates to inmates which help them find jobs as they transition back into the community.”

“It’s important for inmates to have the educational and transitional tools before they leave prison. The more knowledge they have, the more successful they will be when they get out and return to society,” said Fedkenheuer.