WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says the U.S. prison population dropped for the third straight year in 2012.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics says there were more than 1.5 million prison inmates last year. That's a drop of 1.7 percent from 2011.
The prison population hit a high of more than 1.6 million inmates in 2009.
Despite the overall decline, the federal prison population actually rose by nearly 1,500 inmates last year. The state population dropped by nearly 30,000 inmates.
California is responsible for most of the decrease in the number of state inmates. That's because of a 2011 law sending non-serious, non-violent or non-sex offenders to county jails.
Nine states saw their prison populations drop by more than 1,000 — California, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, New York, Florida, Virginia and Maryland.