18 November 2005

Why Have Crime Rates Fallen?

Crime rates are down. Incarceration is up. Conservatives argue that this is not a mystery, making the common sense argument that crime rates are down because more criminals are incarcerated. The Sentencing Project has released a report providing evidence that contradicts this simple heuristic.

So what do they argue:

* Key elements leading to the decline in crime include the economy, changes in drug market patterns, strategic policing initiatives, and community engagement in public safety efforts.

* Incarceration exhibits diminishing returns on crime rates as a larger proportion of prison space is occupied by persons convicted of non-violent and low-level offenses.

* There is no correlation between increasing rates of incarceration and reduced crime rates; during the 1990s Texas increased incarceration levels by 144% while New York's rate only grew by 24%, yet both experienced similar reductions in crime.

* Record incarceration rates have a corrosive impact on families and communities by destabilizing personal and professional bonds and increasing the risk of recidivism.

Hat tip to The Sentencing Law and Policy Blog which has a link to the source document.

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