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Prison population drops as crime rates continue to decline

North Carolina residents will be happy to hear that the number of U.S. residents being held in prison continues to decline. Nationwide statistics point to a prison population that is just under 2.2 million people -- who are currently being held in federal, state and local prisons -- as of year-end 2015. This figure represents a drop of 51,000 inmates compared to year-end 2014, which is the biggest inmate population decline since 2009.

As for the federal prison system specifically, inmate populations lowered by a full 7 percent. Meanwhile, prison statistics for states across the nation averaged a 2 percent decline. Only 29 states saw a decline in inmates in their prison systems, but according to the report, many states are making great strides toward reforming how they deal with people who have been convicted of crimes -- with North Carolina being seen as one of the leaders of the pack in this regard.

North Carolina is placing less emphasis on imprisonment and more emphasis on supporting those convicted of crimes not to relapse back into their criminal behavior patterns. North Carolina is also supporting the use of substance abuse treatment in lieu of jail and other alternative programs like the use of half-way houses and counseling for offenders who did not commit high-level crimes.

Overall, crime rates have declined considerably over the last five years. Since 2010, violent crime rates and property-related crime rates have declined by approximately 15 percent.

North Carolina residents accused of crimes will always have the ability to defend themselves in court against the allegations. Sometimes a criminal defense will involve a not guilty plea and the defendant and his or her legal counsel will present evidence and arguments that reveal how the prosecution is wrong. Other times, the defendant may plead guilty to certain accusations in order to negotiate a plea bargain for a reduced punishment during sentencing.

Source: The Hill, "US prison population falling as crime rates stay low," Reid Wilson, Jan. 03, 2017

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