Fewer Prisons – And Yet, Less Crime

Post Date: February 9, 2014

(Detroit Free Press, Columnist Brian Dickerson) — Americans are weary of paying for prisons.

After stuffing more and more people behind bars for more than two decades, the vast majority of states, including Michigan, have taken steps in recent years to reduce both the number of people they imprison and the length of time offenders remain incarcerated.

As prison populations fall, moreover, crime rates are following suit. Nobody has proved a causal relationship between the two trends, but the fact that some of the biggest reductions in crime have occurred in states that slashed their inmate populations most dramatically has debunked the presumption that public safety depends on lengthy sentences and stingy parole policies.

States that spent the 1980s and ’90s building more and bigger penitentiaries have found a better return in programs designed to divert offenders from prison, and smooth re-entry for those who’ve served their time. Read moremap