Sentencing Project Challenges George Will On Incarceration


The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, is challenging columnist George Will argument, reported in Crime & Justice News, that the world record incarceration rate in the U.S. has produced safer streets and has been beneficial in particular to African Americans, who are disproportionately victims of crime. The organization says that “Will's selective use of data and limited vision provide an inaccurate portrayal of current criminal justice policy and its effects.” The project maintains that “evidence-based social programs that address the contributing factors to crime have been demonstrated to be more cost-effective than incarceration.”

The Sentencing Project says that the unprecedented rise in the prison population was brought about primarily as a result of changes in policy, not crime rates. To Will’s assertion that scholarly studies have shown that states that sent a higher fraction of convicts to prison had lower rates of crime, the Sentencing Project responds that, “During the 1990s, a time of historic declines in crime, there was no discernable correlation between incarceration rates and criminal offending.” Between 1991 and 1998, states with above average increases in the rate of incarceration (72 percent) experienced a 13 percent decrease in crime rates. States with below average increases in the rate of incarceration (30 percent) actually experienced a greater decline in crime rates, 17 percent. ‘


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