"What Barkow does not mention is that, in the face of this unprecedented rise in crime, the experts who then ran our criminal justice systems oversaw a drop of 12 percent in the number of federal and state prisoners: from 226,344 in 1960 to 198,831 in 1970. In many large states the downward trend was even steeper: a drop of 18 percent in Ohio; 19 percent in Georgia and Michigan; 22 percent in New York; 23 percent in Missouri; and 43 percent in Virginia.
Let that sink in. At a time when crime more than doubled, our incarcerated population shrank. This meant either that fewer felons were going to prison, or that they were serving less time there, or both. Although our data are sketchy for this period, it appears that both were true."