location: news

November 22, 2005


A new report by The Sentencing Project challenges the widely held misperception that the decline in crime rates in the U.S. since the 1990s resulted from an increasing reliance upon incarceration. Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship provides a comprehensive analysis of research conducted on the relationship between incarceration and crime, and concludes that assertions of prison’s impact on criminal offending have been overstated. As policymakers continue to struggle with the legacy of a prison population that has been growing steadily for more than three decades, this report suggests an urgent need for the reconsideration of the punitive sentencing and parole policies that currently dominate the U.S. criminal justice landscape.

Important findings of the report include:

  • Key elements leading to the decline in crime include the economy, changes in drug market patterns, strategic policing initiatives, and community engagement in public safety efforts
  • Incarceration exhibits diminishing returns on crime rates as a larger proportion of prison space is occupied by persons convicted of non-violent and low-level offenses
  • There is no correlation between increasing rates of incarceration and reduced crime rates; during the 1990s Texas increased incarceration levels by 144% while New York’s rate only grew by 24%, yet both experienced similar reductions in crime
  • Record incarceration rates have a corrosive impact on families and communities by destabilizing personal and professional bonds and increasing the risk of recidivism

The full report is available for download on The Sentencing Project's website.

Michael Jackson