Reformers and policymakers who are concerned about the vast U.S. prison system have called for reducing the number of people behind bars. By that standard, they've made progress over the past several years, as the incarcerated population has declined from its peak in 2009.
Yet even as fewer people are behind bars, the number going to prison nationally changed little during that time — outside of California, where the Supreme Court ordered major reforms to the state's overcrowded system in 2011.
John Pfaff, a legal scholar at Fordham University, pointed out the paradox in a series of tweets on Tuesday. While more people are being sent to prison than in 2010, the total population declined because prisoners are serving shorter terms, partly as a result of lawmakers' efforts to reduce minimum sentences. The reduced sentencing are welcome for convicts and their families, but incarceration is not affecting fewer lives.