Writing in the Washington Post, Marc Mauer and David Cole outline five “myths” about incarceration, including this one: “Crime has fallen because incarceration has risen.” They cite two experts who say incarceration can be credited in just 10 to 25 percent of the decline. The commentators said drug offenders and harsher sentences have caused the prison population boom, and they said a high recidivism rate is inevitable under the current system.
Mauer is executive director of the Sentencing Project, and Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. They write, “Prison appears to make inmates as likely to commit crime as not; about half of released inmates return to prison within three years. Congress appropriated only $83 million for reentry in fiscal year 2011, or less than $120 per released prisoner. Even with additional state funds, one is not likely to overcome a lifetime of low educational attainment, substance abuse and/or mental health disabilities with this meager commitment.”