States That Slashed Their Prison Populations Have Seen Disproportionate Drops In Crime, Too
By Nicole Flatow
From Think Progress
The United States still has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but those few states that managed to significantly reduce their prison population over the last decade saw benefits other than reduced lock-up costs. They also saw theircrime rate go down at a higher rate than the national average, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project.
The report bolsters the notion that locking up the wrong people doesn’t improve public safety. In fact, “smart on crime” policies not only minimize punishment toward non-violent offenders; they can also re-allocate resources toward violent crime. […]
The analysis of these three states follows an exhaustive April report from the National Academy of Sciences concluding that the United States should reduce its prison population because the negative consequences of U.S. mass incarceration outweigh any benefits.
Even with their reduced incarceration rate, all three of these states still have incarceration rates three to six times that of most industrialized nations. Future reforms may focus not just on low-level offenders, but also on the dramatically long sentences doled out even for non-violent felonies.
But more sustained reductions in over-incarceration may also rely on external reforms, particularly to the mental health system. A number of studies are showing that, as treatments and facilities for mentally ill individuals disappear, prisons and jails become the new de facto asylums.