HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Pennsylvania’s state prisons notched their biggest population decline in more than four decades in 2015.

The trend of rapidly rising numbers of inmates in Pennsylvania state prisons was stemmed several years ago, but the decline of 842 inmates in state prisons from 2014 to 2015 was the biggest in more than 40 years. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel believes that’s good for public safety.

“[The] Pew Foundation in 2014 looked at the states with the biggest population reduction and they saw that the states with the biggest population reduction in their prison population also experienced the biggest reduction in crime,” Wetzel says. “That’s not to say it’s causal, but it’s to say that the pendulum of incarceration has certainly swung to a point where we’ve overused incarceration as a response to crime.”

Over the past two years, Pennsylvania’s prison population has decreased by nearly 1,600 offenders.