"Although the pace of criminal justice reform has accelerated at both the federal and state levels in the past decade, current initiatives have had only a modest effect on the size of the prison population. But over this period, three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – have achieved prison population reductions in the range of 25%. They have also seen their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average" (p. 1). This brief describes how these outcomes were achieved and explains other states can significantly reduce their prison population while ensuring public safety. Sections contained in this brief are: key findings; a decade of evolving criminal justice reform; limited impact on incarceration to date; substantial prison population declines in three states; impact of prison populations reductions on crime; policies and practices that reduced the prison population in the three states; the limited relationship between incarceration and crime; international experience in prison population reduction; potential for substantial prison population reductions; three goals for expanding prison population reduction; and conclusion.
"Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. prison population — 576,000 people — are behind bars with no compelling public safety reason, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The first-of-its-kind analysis provides a blueprint for how the country can drastically cut its prison population while still keeping crime rates near historic lows."
Sections cover: the current prison population; time served in prison today; ending prison for lower-level crimes; reducing time served for other crimes; and recommendations and cost savings.
This is an excellent infographic showing how reductions in incarceration lead to decreases in crime. "Over the past five years, the majority of states have reduced their imprisonment rates while experiencing less crime. The relationship between incarceration and crime is complex, but states continue to show that it is possible to reduce both at the same time." A bar chart shows the change in imprisonment rate compared to the change in crime rate over the period of 2008 through 2013 for all 50 states. The bottom line--crime is less in those states that reduce their need on incarceration.
This infographic is an excellent visual representation of the relationship between crime and incarceration. “Over the past five years, the majority of states reduced both crime and imprisonment rates. The relationship between crime and incarceration is complex, but states are showing that it is possible to reduce them at the same time.” At the same time the numbers show little impact of declining prison populations on crime rates.
This report "examines one of the nation’s least understood recent phenomena – the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades – and analyzes various theories for why it occurred, by reviewing more than 40 years of data from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities. It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline. In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in its effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years. Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000. More important were various social, economic, and environmental factors, such as growth in income and an aging population. The introduction of CompStat, a data-driven policing technique, also played a significant role in reducing crime in cities that introduced it" (website). This report is divided into two parts following an executive summary. Part I—State-Level Analysis of Crime: criminal justice policies—increased incarceration, increased police numbers, use of the death penalty, and enactment of right-to-carry gun laws; economic factors—unemployment, growth in income, inflation, and consumer confidence; and social and environmental factors—decreased alcohol consumption, aging population, decreased crack use, legalization of abortion, and decreased lead in gasoline. Part II—City-Level Analysis of Crime: policing—introduction of CompStat.
“Beginning in the late 1990’s, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Information Center began scanning social, economic and corrections issues to inform the development of programs and services offered by NIC. This report, now in its 6th edition, has continued to evolve into a popular tool that is also used by corrections practitioners to inform their work in jails, prisons and community corrections. Since there are many issues beyond what is addressed in this environmental scan that potentially will influence corrections, this report is intended to give a broad overview of selected current and anticipated trends and not intended to be comprehensive” (p. 3). Sections of this report are: introduction; international developments; demographic and social trends; the workforce; technology; public opinion; the economy and government spending; criminal justice trends; corrections populations and trends; and corrections program initiative and reentry.