Pubdate: Sun, 12 Jun 2016
Source: Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Standard-Speaker


The high costs of incarceration have prompted most states and the 
federal government to reduce their prison populations. Now, according 
to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School 
of Law, there is evidence that doing so does not increase crime.

Researchers analyzed prison and crime data from all 50 states between 
2006, when the reform movement began, through 2014, the most recent 
year for which data are complete. They found that in 27 states that 
have decreased their prison populations, crime also has decreased.

The incarceration rate is not the only factor affecting the crime 
rate. Yet the fact that significant reduced incarceration has not 
adversely affected the crime rate indicates that the reforms work and 
that the policy should be sustained.

Pennsylvania was something of an outlier in the study in that its 
population increased rather than declined over the course of the 
study, from 43,998 in 2006 to 50,423 at the close of 2014. But the 
state has implemented an array of parole and sentencing reforms to 
reduce incarceration. The results from the other states bode well for 
success here. And, as the prison population rose by 12 percent 
statewide, the violent crime rate declined by more than 31 percent, 
from 413.3 such crimes per 100,000 people in 2006 to 284.2 per 100,000.

Nationally, state imprisonment rates dropped collectively by 7 
percent over the period. Of the 28 states that reduced their prison 
populations only one, South Dakota, experienced an increase in crime 
rather than a decrease, and that likely was due to the oil boom there 
rather than to reduced imprisonment.

Some of the best results were in the largest states. California, 27 
percent; New York, 18 percent; and Texas, 15 percent; reduced their 
prison populations by those amounts while experiencing reduced crime 
rates of at least 15 percent.

States experiencing the highest incarceration rate reductions all 
have implemented sentencing reforms and programs to emphasize drug 
treatment and rehabilitation over imprisonment.

The study validates those creative policies. More important, it shows 
that the trend better serves society by treating drug addiction as a 
public health issue rather than a crime alone, saving money and 
safely moving away from imprisonment as the first option.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom