An unexpected spike in the state’s prison population this summer has leveled off, and the population seems to have returned to its overall five-year decline.

The number inmates in Connecticut prisons rose steadily every month since April, but dropped slightly for the first time in September and now stands at 17,134, Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s chief criminal justice policy adviser, said at a Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission meeting.

Lawlor attributed the increase this summer to a slowdown in the parole system and the length of time unsentenced offenders were being held on bail.

This summer, the parole board began using stricter guidelines for determining parole as a result of the deadly 2007 home invasion in Cheshire. In that case, one of the two killers, Joshua Komisarjevsky, had been released on parole.

Along other reforms, the parole system now must use a new risk assessment tool and a more structured decision-making process to determine eligibility, changes that had temporarily slowed the process.

Also contributing to the slowdown was a sluggish pre-sentencing process this summer. Offenders were being held on bail for three to six weeks rather than the usual one-to-three week wait, Lawlor said. As a result, the number of offenders being held on bail has increased by 330 since April.

Lawlor said he thinks the population trend has gotten back on track and will continue its downward trajectory because fewer people are being sent to prison.

“Crime is down, arrests are down, and the number of people going to prison is down,” he said.

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