Madison, Wis . — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has reported a sustained decline in the state’s prison population after more than a century-and-a-half.
Between fiscal years 2007 and 2010, the population fell about seven percent, the largest decline in state history. Experts say court diversion programs, declining crime rates and the state’s focus on preventing recidivism are responsible for the reductions.
At the end of fiscal year 2010, there were 22,171 inmates in the state’s prisons—up from 22,008 at the end of fiscal year 2009. But this slight increase followed three years of consecutive declines in fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009, a first since the state’s first correctional facility opened in Waupun in 1851.
Crime has declined in Wisconsin, as in the rest of the country, meaning that courts are sending fewer offenders to the state for incarceration. Efforts in Wisconsin and around the country are also mounting to find alternatives for nonviolent offenders.