If mass incarceration were an effective way to fight crime, then one would expect to see a strong correlation between higher rates of incarceration and reduced crime.
States have been running a live experiment of sorts on this over the past several years, reforming their criminal justice systems to, in short, punish people less punitively and incarcerate them for shorter periods of time for low-level offenses. Supporters of mass incarceration, such as the Trump administration and particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have warned that these changes would lead to more crime.
But over the past few years, we’ve actually seen the opposite. Take this chart from Adam Gelb at Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocates for criminal justice reform, that shows crime has continued to fall even as states have reduced their prison populations:
Gelb pointed to one particularly telling statistic: “The average crime decline across the 10 states with the greatest declines in imprisonment was 19 percent, and across the 10 states with the largest imprisonment growth it was 11 percent.” In other words, the 10 states with the largest declines in imprisonment actually saw bigger drops in crime than the 10 states with the largest increases in imprisonment.Read More (Offsite)