By Tony Romeo

By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – Pennsylvania’s once-skyrocketing prison population is now heading in the other direction.

Pennsylvania’s prison population has been leveling off in recent years and, at the end of calendar year 2012, it was actually 454 fewer than the year before; only the third time in 40 years the year-end census was smaller than the previous year and the biggest drop since 1971.

Pennsylvania Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton says it shows prison and criminal justice reforms are working. Nonetheless, a new prison near State College that was commissioned when the population was spiking will be opening later this year.

McNaughton says it’s still needed.

“A lot of our institutions were built many years ago and older institutions are more expensive to operate, they require more staff,” says McNaughton

The Commonwealth is also building two facilities on the grounds of Graterford prison in Montgomery County to replace the aging prison there.

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