As counterintuitive as it may seem, over the past five years both crime and imprisonment have declined. At least in 30 states.
Earlier today, The Pew Charitable Trusts released an infographic that illustrates this positive trend. According to its research, Pew found that between 2009 and 2014, the national imprisonment rate fell 7 percent, while the crime rate fell 15 percent (that’s half of the crime rate from 1991). In fact, the current rates are so low that we haven’t seen them since the ’60s.
Specifically, the states with the greatest improvement are California, with a 24 percent decrease in imprisonment; followed by Hawaii (19 percent), and New Jersey and South Carolina (both 17 percent). The state with the greatest decline in crime was Vermont, at 36 percent; then Michigan (26 percent); then Texas, Wyoming, and Illinois (24 percent).
So, what’s causing the decrease?
Potential causes include better policing, the waning of the crack cocaine epidemic, the use of electronic payments instead of cash, and the increased use of car theft prevention devices and other anti-crime technology.
The really interesting thing in all of this is that the lower crime rates are not due to higher incarceration rates! Crime falls not necessarily because we lock more people up, but rather because we are finding better ways to disincentivize criminal behavior.
Imagine what the numbers could look like over the next five years if we continue to push for criminal justice reforms that emphasize proportional punishment, constructive prison culture, and true second chances for citizens returning to society.
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