Prison Populations are Up and Crime Rates are Down – What’s Up With That?

Posted on April 18, 2012 by


Image: Boston Review. Used with permission.

There are two clear-as-day facts about today’s criminal justice system: our incarceration rate is way, way up and our crime rates are down in serious ways. The relationship between these two is more difficult to tease apart. Without a background in criminology or knowing a great deal about the criminal justice system, it’s tempting to suggest that this correlation has a causal basis.  That is to say, that the reason crime is down is because our prison populations are up.

Criminologists know otherwise, and Bruce Western has a great piece in the Boston Review that helps to explain the nuances. Western’s research looks at crime rates in both states that had increasing and states that had decreasing prison populations.  Crime rates declined in both situations.

Click through to read the rest of the analysis. Thanks to Daniel at Boston Review for pointing us to this article and image permission.