At a time of record and rising prison populations, New York has taken a different path, showing that crime rates and prison populations can decline simultaneously. Over the past decade, while the nation’s prison population has increased, New York’s has dropped from 67,171 to 55,918, a drop of 16.75 percent. The drop in prison population has not caused crime rates to rise. To the contrary, over the past decade, New York State’s crime rate has decreased.
This impressive development is a model for the nation. However, largely overlooked in this positive assessment is the stark reality that New York prisons have one of the highest rates of solitary confinement in the United States. Today in New York almost 4,500 inmates are confined into small prison cells for up to 23 hours a day with almost no stimulation or human interaction. This is a rate of solitary confinement that is 37 percent higher than the national average. It represents a 46 percent increase in 10 years of prisoners placed in solitary confinement in New York.
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