Emily Badger contends that we are mistaken in assuming that there is a relationship between the rise in incarceration and the decline in crime: “in assuming that the first trend created the second one.”
Recent evidence, particularly from states that have reduced their prison rates, refutes this logic. But if anyone is still unconvinced, this jaw-dropping finding from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU should undermine once and for all the notion that mass incarceration makes us safer: We’ve locked up so many people in the U.S., that increasing incarceration long ago ceased to have any real impact on crime in this country.
We reached a point pf diminishing returns “in the U.S. around the year 2000. And we’ve been experiencing these diminishing returns — incarceration has been losing its power as a crime-fighting tool — since at least the early 1980s:”
“Not surprisingly, smarter policing (by which the Brennan Center does not mean stop-and-frisk) has a greater impact on reducing crime than ubiquitous and harsh prison sentences.”
“Much of the decline still remains unexplained … The incarceration finding is particularly important because it gives further support to the idea that we can reduce prison populations and roll back aggressive sentencing laws without endangering public safety.”