More than half the states in the nation lowered their prison populations last year — but not Florida, where it continued to rise, according to a recent survey by the Pew Center on the States.
Nationally, 27 states saw their prison populations fall between Dec. 31, 2008, and Jan. 1, 2010, according to Prison Count 2010, released Wednesday. States with declines included New York, Mississippi, and Texas.
But over the same period of time, Florida's state prison population rose 1.5 percent, or by slightly more than 1,500 inmates, the report said.
Pew pinned the problem squarely on Florida's leaders.
"In other states, like Texas and Kansas, leaders have reached across the political aisle and come to a consensus on solutions that can both protect public safety and cut corrections spending," said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at Pew Center on the States. "But that's not happening in Florida."
In response to the report, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil released a statement that acknowledged the growing prison population, but pointed out the growth was lower than the state projections.
"The prison population is still projected to grow in Florida but we are seeing the rate of that growth begin to slow down," the statement read.
Gelb said the fact that adding 1,500 prisoners was considered slower-than-expected growth showed how far Florida had to go. As of Monday, Florida had a prison population of 101,517.
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