The number of prison sentences in Alabama has dropped 24 percent over three years and has fallen more sharply since new sentencing guidelines took effect Oct. 1, 2013. From that day through June 2014, felony sentences to prison dropped 16 percent from the same period the previous year, to 5,253.
Other arrest and conviction trends are down.
There were about 10,000 fewer felony arrests in Alabama in 2013 than in 2009, a 21 percent drop.
Felony convictions for drug possession dropped by 33 percent from 2009 to 2013.
Judges are handing down shorter sentences under the guidelines, which were intended to send fewer nonviolent offenders to prison and save room for the worst and most dangerous.
The guidelines apply to many drug and property crimes but not violent offenses or burglary.
For felony convictions covered under the guidelines, the average sentence dropped from 96 months in fiscal year 2011 to 74 months in fiscal year 2014.
But the downward trends have not relieved the packed conditions inside prison walls.
Alabama has about 26,000 inmates in prisons designed for just more than 13,000. Prisons remain at almost twice their capacity because of a slower parole rate, a high rate of return for those released and other factors.
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