Yes, It's Possible to Reduce Both Crime and Incarceration at the Same Time

Crime is coming down faster in states where incarceration is declining.


"I never thought I'd say this, Bob, but I wish we were in Texas."
Spire Comics

If you let more people out of jail, is crime guaranteed to soar? Not according to this infographic from Pew, which shows that the country's decline in crime over the last five years has actually been greater in states that have reduced their imprisonment rates. (They do not, alas, compare states' rates in violent crime, property crime, and so on.)

Bonus link: Defenders of mass incarceration sometimes try to give it credit for the long slide in crime rates since the '90s. In a 2011 Reason article, Radley Balko showed why that argument doesn't hold up.

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  1. No kidding, just end the WOD, that should be about a 50% reduction overnight.

  2. Of course crime will increase if you start releasing people from prisons. With all the different crimes they have on the books now, people can’t help but break the law.

  3. Will no think of the poor, underpaid prison guard, who just wants to smuggle enough drugs into prisons to feed his family and buy a new Dodge Charger?

    1. And knock of a few of those fine caged hoes!

      /ex Baltimore City prison guard.

  4. and buy a new Dodge Charger


  5. Define “crime”. If we’re just talking about crimes with an actual victim, the rates may indeed be declining(assuming no spike in unreported crime). If we’re talking about any violation of federal, state, and local statues OTOH, the crime rate is approaching infinity.

  6. It kind of depends on what you have as a crime, and who you let out of prison. Drop the War On Drugs down a deep hole, and let the people imprisoned under its silliness out, and you get both crime reduction and lower prison population. Reign in Prosecutors ability to make up crap and get away with it, ditto (after a while. Presumably prison populations might rise from convicted Prosecutors.). Let out a bunch of violent thugs because they have a nice line in Revolutionary patter, and crime will rise. Absent some real evidence that he is innocent, I want Mumia in prison. Actually, I’d like to see him in the ground, but I’ll take what I can get. I wrote Radley Balko once, asking what he thought of Mumia’s case, and he seemed to think there was scant evidence either than the man was innocent or that he didn’t receive a fair trial. That’s good enough for me.

  7. Not according to this infographic from Pew, which shows that the country’s decline in crime over the last five years has actually been greater in states that have reduced their imprisonment rates.

    Not to be a dick, but if your crime rate is dropping wouldn’t your prison population drop too? Chicken, egg.

    1. Not if you’re putting them in faster than you’re letting them out.

    2. The crime rate’s dropping in most of the states where incarceration is increasing too.

      1. Right, so the decrease in crime rate is caused by something other than incarceration rate. I think that was his point. But the part that he quoted doesn’t imply that.

        1. The part he quoted implies that reducing incarceration doesn’t necessarily mean increasing crime. I’m not making a broader causal argument.

  8. Well, summary executions would also do that. /fascist

  9. Ther eis a dude that clearly knows what time it is.

  10. Of course it’s possible–summary execution. No more recidivism, no more prison population.

    Vote JMOMLS in ’16!

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