This year the number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement fell 5.5 percent, the largest decrease in recent years, while property crime was down 2.8 percent. According to analysis by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), this decline in crime has occurred at the same time as a reversal in prison growth rates, as well as a decrease in the number of people under any form of correctional supervision (prison, probation, parole or other supervised release).
“This data shows that public safety can be protected while reducing prison populations,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “The message this sends to policymakers is that they can reallocate scarce public resources away from prison s and put them where they’ll do some good.”
Velázquez also noted that the data shows the complicated relationship between crime and the economy. “Any number of factors can affect crime rates. We can not assume that hard times mean more crimes,” she remarked. Public safety impacts everyone, but incarceration policies tend to have the greatest impact on people from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which tend to be highly policed areas with fewer legal resources. However, Velázquez added, “even with the economy in the tank, we’ve seen less violent crime in both large cities and rural towns.” She recommended policymakers continue to make investments in jobs, education and treatment as these will continue to reduce crime in the long run.
The Justice Policy Institute, based in Washington, DC, is working to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system and promoting policies that improve the well-being of all people and communities. For more information, please visit www.justicepolicy.org.