Crime trends in a few states that have significantly reduced their prison populations contradict the fear that reducing prison populations will lead to an increase in crime, says the Washington Post, quoting a new report from the Sentencing Project. The report analyzes prisoner counts and crime totals in New York, New Jersey, and California, where both went down over a period of years.
The Post says it’s important to note that crime has been falling all over the U.S. over this same time, for reasons that are not entirely understood. The Sentencing Project points out that declining violent crime rates in New York and New Jersey have actually outpaced the national trend, even as these states have reduced their prison populations through changing law enforcement and sentencing policies. The data don’t say that reducing prison populations reduces crime, but the trends do make it harder to argue the opposite, particularly in the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. As the Sentencing Project puts it, “in the era of mass incarceration, there is a growing consensus that current levels of incarceration place the nation well past the point of diminishing returns in crime control.”