Violent Crime Fell in 2008

Prisons and jails experienced less growth than previous years

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Violent crime in the United States fell by 3.5 percent and property crimes fell by 2.5 percent in the first half of 2008, according to an analysis released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). The analysis, which is based on the FBI Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, finds that this drop in crime came at a time when state corrections spending continued to grow, although at a lower rate than the previous year, and when the prison and jail rates also continued to grow, also at lower rates than in previous years.
According to the analysis, violent and property offenses were down across U.S. cities of all sizes in the first six months of 2008.  From 2005-2006, violent crime had increased slightly (1.9 percent), while prison and jail populations also grew (by 2 and 2.5 percent, respectively).  However, as the growth rate of prisons and jails has slowed, the violent crime rate declined as well, down 1.4 percent from 2006 to 2007.

“The drop in violent crime is good news for public safety,” said JPI Executive Director Tracy Velázquez . “The question policymakers must answer is why prison and jail growth continues despite drops in violent crime.  This suggests that more people are being locked up for nonviolent offenses or more people are being returned to jail or prison because of revocations of probation or parole.  In both these cases, officials need to look at whether there are ways to improve or expand programs that help people succeed under community supervision, while preserving public safety.”

The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group that promotes fair and rational justice policies, cautions that no single factor can explain changes in crime across the nation, or within a jurisdiction.  JPI has assembled key findings from these new crime and prison surveys to put the new figures in their appropriate context.  “This data also confirms that increasing incarceration is not necessarily the best way to preserve public safety,” Velázquez added.  “For the greatest return on investment, policymakers should focus on increasing spending at the front end, such as in education and job training, as well as more and better treatment and services at the ‘back end’ to help people who are diverted from prison or jail or who are re-entering the community.” 

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