National Prison Rate Continues to Decline Amid Sentencing, Re-Entry Reforms 2

It is interesting to consider that both liberals and conservatives are constantly claiming that society is going completely down the tubes, with liberals insisting this is due to the availability of guns or the proliferation of hate crimes and public shootings, and conservatives insisting the problem is family breakdown and lack of morals. In reality, crime rates have been declining for decades.

By Adam Gelb and Jacob Denny

Pew Research Center

After peaking in 2008, the nation’s imprisonment rate fell 11 percent over eight years, reaching its lowest level since 1997, according to an analysis of new federal statistics by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The decline from 2015-16 was 2 percent, much of which was due to a drop in the number of federal prisoners. The rate at which black adults are imprisoned fell 4 percent from 2015-16 and has declined 29 percent over the past decade. The ongoing decrease in imprisonment has occurred alongside long-term reductions in crime. Since 2008, the combined national violent and property crime rate dropped 23 percent, Pew’s analysis shows.

Also since that 2008 peak, 36 states reduced their imprisonment rates, including declines of 15 percent or more in 20 states from diverse regions of the country, such as Alaska, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Connecticut. During the same period, almost every state recorded a decrease in crime with no apparent correlation to imprisonment.

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