As governor he solved an overcrowding crisis in California's state prison system:
Reagan actually bragged about releasing people from prison and shrinking the prison budget, which is hard to imagine nowadays. And this was just a different time politically. There wasn't a lot of attention on crime policy. You didn't have state ballot initiatives devoted to prison and crime issues. You didn't have a public that thought it was equipped and capable of making criminal justice policy. You didn't have a strong prison guards' union that lobbied the Legislature and the governor. And at the time, the governor just had more control over the prison system overall.
All told he reduced the incarceration rate by 34 percent! Imagine what a Republican primary candidate would do with that record today.