New numbers from the U.S. Justice Department may come as a surprise to those who think prisons are the best response to crime. Inmate populations are down, and so are criminal convictions.
About 2.3 million Americans are in state and federal prisons or jails, but the numbers have been dropping, and an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts clearly shows the trend in Virginia and neighboring Maryland.
“Maryland saw over the past 5 years a 21% drop in the crime rate while reducing the imprisonment rate by 11 percent, and Virginia – the imprisonment rate went down 8% and crime went down 15%. “
Adam Gelb is with Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project. He says states are tired of spending so much to lock people up – only to see them back in prison soon after release, so they’re trying other forms of punishment and treatment.
“Non-violent, property and drug offenders – more and more of them are being diverted to alternatives that cost less but are just as if not more effective in reducing the rate of recidivism.”
Pew has sent its findings to all fifty states, hoping to promote better public policy when it comes to fighting crime.